Monday, January 30, 2012

Hopes and Dreams

The other day I met with someone who can be vaguely placed in the category of "children's education professional." During the course of the conversation this person asked me, "What are your hopes and dreams for your daughter?"

It was the variety of question that made me bite my tongue. Bite my tongue hard!

The possible responses that I forced myself not to say were, "We're hoping she'll be crowned Homecoming Queen and then maybe marry a nice banker," or "We dream of her winning the Nobel prize," or "If the kid doesn't get into Princeton, that's it! She's dead to us."

Seriously, what kind of question is that?

If you were to ask me about my own hopes and dreams I could describe them to you, in more detail than you would want to hear. I'm me and I have a pretty good grasp on what's important to me. As for my children, they are not me. Although I love them desperately and too much, I recognize the physical barrier. We are not the same person. They are distinct people, becoming more so every day, with their own ideas, goals, dreams and viewpoints.

I suppose my response to this breed of question is not so much a response to the question, as to the underlying ick factor. To me, it seems like an invitation to aggrandize the little people who will live in my house for the next ten or eleven years. It invites me to live vicariously through them, burdening them with all "my hopes and dreams."

That's not the kind of parent I want to be. That's not the kind of person I want to be.

As for Child #1, she is her own person with her own set of hopes and dreams. Right now she's hoping and dreaming of becoming the next Coco Chanel. Who am I to stand in her way? Quite frankly, anyone who gets in her way risks being mowed over by the ocean freighter that is my daughter's determination.

As for my hopes and dreams for her, here they are:

I hope she grows up to be happy and fulfilled without becoming a burden to society. Anything more and I risk my own ideals of what it means to be a parent. Anything less and I haven't done my job.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bedtime

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to check out the Share our Stories program! I'm excited about it and I'm glad you are too.

Now back to sleep. I mean, talking about sleep.

In between Monday and today I had time to do a little research about sleep. Did you know that the CDC (that's Center for Disease Control for those of you who don't harbor mild paranoia about bird flu and other infectious diseases) maintains a page dedicated to sleep. http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsSleep/

Apparently insufficient sleep is considered a disease!

Insufficient sleep is linked to automobile accidents. Driving sleep-deprived is almost as dangerous as driving drunk. Not getting enough sleep is also linked to diseases like depression, diabetes and obesity.

According to the CDC adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. Kids under the age of ten need 10-11 hours of sleep and teens need 8.5-9.5 hours. Even if I wasn't shocked by kids over the age of ten being included in the teens group (what!?! does that mean I almost have a teenager?) that information was still enough to shock, surprise and make me seriously question whether my family gets enough sleep.

Now (confession time) I'm at my best when I get a full nine hours of sleep. But it doesn't happen all that often. Mostly because nine hours of sleep doesn't leave a lot of time to do anything else. To my point, I need to be ASLEEP by ten o'clock every night in order to get my required nine hours.

But I promised I would try. And so I did. Here's what's happened so far:

Monday: Turned off the light at 10:20 because I was trying to finish a chapter of The Illumination. Pretty sure I was asleep by 10:30 which was good. Eight and 1/2 hours good!

Tuesday: Those Eight and 1/2 hours left me supercharged. I bounced through the day. Book club that evening + a couple of glasses of wine meant I didn't get home until 10:30.

Of course I was too wound up to go to sleep until I talked to my husband for an hour. And then, even after I'd exhausted his patience for listening to book club gossip and what happened on Twitter, I was still full of energy. Which meant I was up late. Way too late.

Wednesday:  I went to bed by 10:30 and was asleep instantly thanks to my late night on Tuesday. Unfortunately the early bedtime backfired.
At 2:00 am I woke up and remembered something I'd forgotten to do. Which meant I had to get up, turn on the lights and address it.

Big no-no! Sleep experts say you should not wander around your house in the middle of the night turning on lights and completing forgotten chores.

Thursday: I don't know yet. If I've learned anything this week, it's that I should NOT promise to get up at 2:00 am to check in and let you know how it's going. Maybe sleep is a pattern and I'll be back to Eight and 1/2 hour Tuesday, supercharged and ready to go.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shared A Good Book Lately?

Have you heard about the Amazon Prime lending program?

It works like this. Say, for example, you buy a copy of Losing Beauty, read it and recommend it to a friend. In this example your friend also has a Kindle. You can then, with a click of a button, lend Losing Beauty to your friend. From that point on the friend has fourteen days to read it (anecdotal evidence leads me to believe most readers of Losing Beauty take about three days to finish so fourteen days could almost be called excessive) ;) At the end of the fourteen days the book is returned to you, voila! So simple!!

This new lending program is Amazon's attempt to make books on people's ereaders as lendable as the ones on their shelves. Which, in my opinion, is very cool.

If you want to lend a book that you've purchased here's how to do it in four easy steps:



1. Go to the Amazon site and visit the page of the book you'd like to lend. At the top of the page you will see the following text, "Loan this book to anyone you choose."

2. Click on the "Loan this book" link. It will take you to the loan page.

3. Enter the email of the person to whom you wish to lend it. (It must be the email that their reading device is registered to: Kindle, Ipad, Iphone, etc).

4. Add a personal message if you like, and hit Send Now.

That's it!

As an author, it might seem odd that I'm encouraging you to lend my book, free of charge to other readers. But the funny thing about authors is we are readers first. I am a frequent visitor to my public library and rejoice *happy dance, sing, jump up and down* every time I hear Losing Beauty is in a library.

My goal as a writer is to connect with readers. Plain and simple. Amazon's lending program is a huge step in that direction. So read, readers, read!

P.S. I know about this open group on Facebook where lots of authors are happy to lend out their books. http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/276783892383174/

P.P.S. You might even find me there too!






Monday, January 23, 2012

To Sleep or Not to Sleep?

After the success of my initial energy boosting project I thought I'd tackle something new. After all, eating less sugar had given me a boost of energy so why not? The first thing I did was think about some of our other household rules. The kind of rules designed to make my children bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to take on the world.

The first one that came to mind was sleep.

Even though I had little to no experience with children until I had my own, it didn't take long to figure out the importance of sleep.

 In fact, I learned my lesson so well I became a bit of a sleep Nazi. When the kids were babies, if we missed their ridiculously early bedtime by more than twenty minutes I would start to hyperventilate. Past experience had taught me the loss of those twenty minutes would provide an endless round of tired-tantrums, malaise and general unpleasantness the coming day.

Almost ten years into the business of being a parent and I've relaxed a little bit. Part of the reason is because the hair triggers that were my small sleep-deprived children, have grown older. They can handle less sleep. The other part of the reason is they sleep in. It's bliss! It's delight. They Sleep In!!

Their ability to sleep-in has allowed me to ease back into my preferred sleep pattern. In an ideal world I would stay up late and sleep in until about noon. Since no world is 100% ideal I've met it halfway.

Slowly, my bedtime has crept later and later. There are just so many books to read, conversations to have, movies to see and thoughts to think. It's hard to give all that up in favor of a few extra hours of sleep.

But what if I did? What if I forced myself to pick one evening activity (instead of all of them) and then get to bed in time to make sure I got plenty of sleep. Would I get my mornings back? Would I find myself able to respond in intelligible sentences to parents I see each morning at the kid's school?

Maybe I wouldn't gear up for the day at noon.  It's ridiculous! Who is at their best at noon? Crazy people who practically need an IV injection of caffeine to get their brains up and running, that's who!

So I'm going to try it. We'll see what happens. Maybe I'll lie in bed for hours and write blog posts in my head. Or maybe, I'll wake up early and write them for real. Before noon! Now that really would be something to blog about!


Friday, January 20, 2012

A Stalker's Tale

Someone sent me an email the other day. There's nothing strange about that. I get LOTS of emails, as I'm sure do you. I'll get to what was strange later, but first let me tell you about the purpose of the email. It announced that January is National Stalking Awareness Month.

The email came with lots of helpful facts about stalking such as the amount of states that have anti-stalking laws (50), a reminder that 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before and, most interestingly, that 1 in 4 victims report being stalked through the usage of some form of technology.

This was all good. I mean, good to know, bad when it happens. The email then asked if I would consider doing something (anything) to help get the word out about stalking awarness month. And then, before I could delete it I got another email from the same email address.

That's odd, I thought but, you know, maybe someone just clicked send twice. I didn't think about it too much until I received another exhortation to consider supporting National Stalking Awareness Month via Twitter. And then another. After that I got two more emails on my personal account followed by a message on Facebook.

The question was obvious. Was I being stalked by the National Stalking Awareness Campaign?

I'm a writer. More specifically, a fiction writer, which means my brain takes miniscule pieces of information and extracts them into whole novels. My brain did not like the above question. In fact, it was the kind of question that had the power to (of course this is all theoretical) make my brain wake up at the sound of a car door in the middle of the night. I might have shaken my husband awake with  every husband's favorite 2:00 AM question. "Honey, who is that parked in our driveway!?"

In this hypothetical scenario he might have searched for his glasses, peered out the window and snapped, "That's the guy who delivers the newspaper."

"Yes, but he's parked. What do you think he's doing out there?"

"I'm going back to sleep."
It's true, when I think about it, that I receive a similar volume of mail (snail and e) from other organizations like Netflix and Boden and not once have I ever associated them with stalking.  And it's also true that I support the Stalking Awareness campaign's cause, in much the same way I would support the anti-murder and anti-theft cause, if those causes exist.

 In fact, I'm so anti-stalking that I decided to write this post to promote January as National Stalking Awareness month. I mean, just in case the people in charge show up on my doorstep to ask me again, or sit outside my house in a dark car, or monitor my telephone calls, or get the guy who delivers our newspaper to watch our house in the middle of the night, or...well, you get the idea. But in case you don't I'll spell it out for you.

Stalking is bad. Don't do it.



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Better: Is it your enemy?

I was talking with a friend last week, because in my search for laughter I've made more time to be spontaneous and talk with friends, and she mentioned something that made me think.

We were talking about schools. It was one of those conversations that is ENDLESSLY fascinating to parents and torture to anyone else. But in that conversation she said (and I hesitate to quote her because I know she reads my blog and I don't want to get it wrong but what the hell I think I'll take the chance), "Sometimes better is the enemy of good."
Turns out Voltaire said it first.
It bears repeating. Sometimes better is the enemy of good. I thought about this statement all weekend long, and not in the context of schools.

We are constantly encouraged to be better. It's not just writers or students or atheletes who suffer from this exhortation. It's everyone.

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are told to give a little more, go a little harder, be a little better. Even this blog has been known (on occasion) to look for ways to make a pretty good life, even better.

But what happens when change is for the sake of change? Or to put it conversely, what if your need to be better holds you back from being good?

What's wrong with good?

Even though the comment was made in a conversation about kids and school, I couldn't help but apply it to my own life. Are there times when my need to be a better writer holds me back from being good?

A few months ago my daughter asked me if, Losing Beauty, my first novel, would win any literary prizes.

"Probably not," I told her.

"Does that mean it isn't very good?" she asked

"No, it's good but it's not prize-winning good. It's not that kind of book," I tried to explain. We were both silent for a moment and then I added "but that doesn't mean I won't write that kind of book some day. It just hasn't happened yet."

What I knew, but couldn't explain at the moment, is that if I refuse to publish something good, than I might not ever get to something even better.

So that's where I am right now. I'm doing the best work I can. Could it be better? Absolutely. Will I let that stop me from being good? No. Because, to come full circle, I don't think there's any way to get better without making a long stop at good.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Looking for Laughter in Portlandia

Last week I wrote about looking for laughter. Side-splitting, doubled-over, fall-off-your-chair, tears running down your face laughter.

It wasn't as easy as I hoped. Looking for genuine laughter is sort of like waiting for water to boil. It's not something you can force. While I was waiting to get my laugh on I decided to do some research. Here's what I discovered.

Kids in preschool, on average, laugh 400 times a day. Adults laugh, on average, 17 times a day.

What happens between age 4 and adulthood? Part of what happens is our senses of humor mature. Knock-knock jokes and farting aren't as funny to grown-ups as they are to kids. Umm, actually maybe I should've edited that last sentence so that it just included knock-knock jokes. Anyway, the point is, grown ups are more, well, grown up.

We're also busier. It takes time to laugh. And it takes time to put yourself in situations where you might find the funny.

My research turned up lots of opportunities to coerce laughter. I live in Portlandia, so along with organic free-range chickens, impossibly slow drivers and multi-tiered, complex recycling programs, we also have lots of self-awareness options.

There were things like laughter meditation, laugh therapy, laugh yoga and laughing clubs. While the idea of all these things made me smile I couldn't quite imagine myself attending a laughter yoga class.

Instead I focused on things closer to home, baby steps I could take while I was waiting for my pot of laughter to boil over. The first thing I did was make an effort to give myself more time to laugh. It seems counterintuitive, but I found the most effective way to do this was to clear my calendar. The freedom to accept last minute invitations, be spontaneous (while stressful to the neighborhood babysitters receiving frantic last minute texts) heightened my opportunity for laughter.

I also discovered that, while the kids and I might not laugh at the same things, they LOVE to see me laugh. In fact, my laughter is enough to make them drop whatever they are doing and come running to investigate.

If that isn't enough to make you smile then I'm almost certain the following video will make you laugh! Happy laugh day!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Secret Writers

"Can you keep a secret?"

Child #2 and I were walking to school earlier this week. His sister had been dropped off early for choir so it was just the two of us. It's cold in Portland right now, meaning below 40 degrees, so he was wearing his little knit hat with the tassle and skipping along the sidwalk next to me.

"Of course I can," I said.

He made me lean down so he could whisper in my ear. "I'm kind of a spy. You can't tell anyone because I'm here to keep you safe."

"You are?"


This looks like a cool spy hideout!
He nodded and chased a squirrel up an elm tree, then he added "I've got a secret spy hideout. It's under the basement floor. You have to press a button to get down there and, Mom, there's another thing."

"What is it?"

"I don't want you to worry...," he paused and gave me a serious look, "but we have guns. The real kind. But I promise, we only use them to shoot the bad guys."

We arrived at school before the bell rang and I helped him stow his hat and coat in his locker. He hugged me good bye and whispered "Ninjago," in my ear.

"Ninjago?" I asked.

"Shh, that's the code word."

"Oh, okay."

He held out his arms and said "I need an extra big kiss today." I gave him one and then left him at school to get down to the business of being in first grade.

All the way home I thought about the secret worlds I used to create when I was a kid. My worlds had elves, fairies and demons with secret doors that served as passageways between here and there. As a kid, it never occured to me to write my stories down. I was too busy acting them out and making up new ones.

Child #2's fantasies felt nostalgic, familiar. Maybe because they reminded me so much of the kinds of stories I used to dream up thirty some years ago.

I wonder, does this mean he's going to be a writer, or does it mean that each of us has a writer hidden inside, waiting to get out?

p.s. Please don't tell him his mother can't keep a secret! 



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Fulfillment Project Looks for Laughter

I've loved reading your comments about my ixnay on the ugarsay. Hopefully a few of my fellow wish-they-had-more-energiers will join me. Don't worry, we get a free pass to eat as much chocolate as we want on Valentine's Day.

My second part of living like a kid is a little trickier. It has to do with joy. More specifically, it has to do with laughter. When was the last time you laughed so hard you fell off your chair?  For Child #1 it was last night when I sang Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night" in my mama pygmy puff voice.

A picture, for those of you unfamiliar with pygmy puffs.
For me, it's been a while. I laugh, but often it's more of a muted kind of affair, as opposed to the full-out, shrieking, fall-off-of-your chair type of laughter.

She was a great speaker!
In fact, the last time I laughed until I cried was when I attended a local lecture given by Ursula Le Guin. I know Ms. Le Guin isn't known to be a humorist, but my laughter wasn't really her fault. It had more to do with the fact that I talked a friend into coming with me to the lecture. On the way there I rhapsodized about the way Ms. LeGuin's children's books changed my life and inspired me to write.

My friend, who is very well-read, was surprised. "I don't remember any children's books by Ursula LeGuin," she told me as we were walking from the parking lot toward the speech venue.

"Oh, you must have read them. You know, the whole Wrinkle in Time series."

She stopped walking and grabbed me by the elbow. "Johanna, that's not Ursula LeGuin," she said.

"It's not?"

Madeleine L'Engle
We pulled out our phones and quickly discovered it was Madeleine L'Engle. This discovery was funny, the kind of funny that made us laugh but continue on to see the lecture because we had both also read books by Ursula LeGuin. After we sat down I whispered to my friend, "I'm really sad I missed seeing Madeleine L'Engle. She was in Portland earlier this year."

It was before the lecture started so she pulled out her phone again and a moment later she said, "Oh honey, Madeleine L'Engle' died in 2007." I like to think Madeleine L'Engle would have found this information as funny as we did. Some of the people in the audience, however, did not think it was funny to see two grown women laughing hysterically in the back row.

The point to this story, aside from proving that I'm a complete doofus who doesn't know her L'Engles from her LeGuins, is the laughter. I wish I could laugh like that more often. But laughter is tricky. It's not something you can set out to accomplish, like stomach crunches or making your bed. It's spontaneous, and as such amorphous.

Wish me luck! I'm hoping this part of living like a kid doesn't turn out to be my white whale. That one's Melville, right?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Immediate Gratification

I had some interesting conversations this weekend about living like a kid. People wanted clarification. They wanted to know how far I would take my living like a kid philosophy?

Here are the top five things that it does not mean.

1. It does not mean I will need someone to remind me to put on underwear.

2.  Or brush my teeth, hair, eat my vegetables and flush the toilet.

3. It also does not mean I plan to start walking around with my hand stuffed down the back of my shorts.

Whose kid is that anyway!?! Please don't get me started on the socks!

4. Nor does it mean I will give up driving. Seriously people, I've got to get from point A to B.

5. Lastly, from a conversational standpoint, it doesn't mean I plan to start tacking on 'no offense' to every offensive statement I make. One of the things that living like an adult has taught me is if you have to say 'no offense' you're probably better off without saying it. 

Now for the initial results. I'm really excited about this because they are all about immediate gratification and what kid doesn't like that?

It's simple. If you want more energy cut back on your sugar.

And when I say cut back I don't mean eliminate. I just mean follow the same rules I impose on my kids. Modest amounts of sugar are fine, as in one small cookie or piece of chocolate after dinner.

My own personal sugar reduction started on Monday of last week. I wrote about how hard it was. The box of cookies in the freezer, the box of chocolate on the buffet. By the end of the week I'd had enough of the sugar seranade and dumped an entire box of chocolate-covered toffee into the compost bin. That was the hard part.

What I didn't write about is the good stuff. On Wednesday morning I woke up with a ridiculous jolt of energy that shows no signs of ebbing. In fact, I'm still searching for alternate explanations. Could it be the full moon, the fact that the kid are back in school, the passing of winter solstice? It's hard to believe all this extra energy is really tied to cutting back on sugar. 

Friday after school, a time in the week when I'm usually dragging, I was wide awake and up for anything. We came home, made snacks and then my daughter asked if we could listen to Pink Martini on the stereo.

"Sure," I said. "And we could even make up a dance to it too."

And we did. We made up a dance routine that will NOT be available for screening at any time in the future but that's beside the point. The point is that on a Friday at 4:00 I had the energy of nine year old! And if that's not immediate gratification, I'm not sure what is. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sweet Tooth

If I was going to live like a kid there was one thing I was certain I needed.

More energy!

It takes a lot of energy to be in the dreamy-eyed wonder, giggly, belly-laughing frame of mind. The first culprit on my list was sugar.

During my fouth month of pregnancy with Child #1 my secretary was certain I was having a girl because "a girl steals your beauty." In that same unscientific way, I was certain that sugar was stealing my energy.

If I was going to talk the talk, I needed to walk the walk which would mean giving up my 11:00, 1:00, 3:00 and 5:00, 6:00, 7:00 and 9:00 sugar pick-me-ups. I made the announcement at dinner and it was met with varied reactions.  "Wait a minute!" said my daughter. "You've been getting seconds on dessert? No fair. Totally, no fair."

"You're right," I said. "That's why I'm not going to do it anymore. I'll eat snacks when you guys do."

 My husband had some concerns of his own. "Umm, is this like a diet?"

"No, no," I clarified. "Not a diet. Just about eating healthy foods so that I have more energy." I knew where he was going with the diet thing and just between you and me and the rest of the world that reads this blog, I'm not so fun to be around when I'm hungry.

After dinner we all picked out one piece of chocolate from our leftover stocking candy. Instead of gobbling it down in two bites, I savored it. Child # 1 was savoring her own chocolate, taking teeny, tiny bites to make it last as long as possible.

I suddenly realized why she was eating so slowly. Because that was all the chocolate she was going to get! And it was all the chocolate I was going to get too!!

At 9:00, when I normally have one last little something sweet, I walked into the kitchen. The leftover Christmas cookies came out of the freezer. I got as far as opening the box before I stopped. Then I asked myself, what would I tell the kids if they still wanted a cookie after dessert? I'd tell them to eat some protein. I really, really wanted that cookie but it turns out the prospect of living like a kid was even more tantalizing.

The cookies went back into the freezer and I grabbed a cheese stick.

My husband wandered into the kitchen and said, "I thought you said no snacking."

I threw the wrapper at him. After all, this IS my chance to live like a kid.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Fulfillment Project Lives Like A Kid

It's a new year and sadly I'm not feeling like a new me. In fact, after an especially ambitious holiday entertaining schedule I feel worn out, like a sponge that has been used too long and really needs to be replaced.

Some people have New Year's resolutions but I have The Fulfillment Project. I decided to combat my worn out, spongelike, dark eyecircled feeling with something that seemed guaranteed to put some spring back into my step.

I would live like a kid.

Fortunately, I have kids so I get to see, first hand, what this means.

One thing it means is healthy eating. Who needs your own Oprah-style personal chef when you have a mother dedicated to turning out well-balanced meals and insisting that all snacks be healthy. Yes, we do dessert at our house but in small portions. Um, what I meant to say is the kids eat dessert in small portions. My husband and I have gotten in the habit of having second and sometimes even third helpings after the kids are in bed.

Speaking of bed, we all know that getting enough sleep is a major component to not feeling like a worn out sponge. I do a pretty good job with this but lately my Kindle reading habit has kept me up into the wee hours.

Which brings me to another component of kid life in the Garth household. Electronic entertainment. If you're a regular reader of my blog you already know it's limited. If I tell my kids they can't watch television during the schoolweek than maybe that would be a good rule for me too.

As I wrote the above three paragraphs my mind was already beginning to reel. There would be a lot of changes in the New Year and I wasn't sure I was entirely prepared for them. Then I heard the kids upstairs. They were emitting that gigantic belly laugh that I hardly ever do anymore. Maybe a couple of weeks of living like a kid is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The best and the worst.

We all have our best and worst gifts from the holiday season. Maybe you received a strange porcelain frog with fake eyelashes and a bikini? (worst) Or maybe you got a BRAND NEW CAR (cue game show host voice). It doesn't really matter what your best and worst are because normally they aren't found in the same package. Right?

This holiday season my preconceived notions about bests and worsts were turned on their head by none other than Child #2.


On Christmas morning he paused from ripping paper off of boxes long enough to deliver a wrapped box to my lap. "This one's for you, mom," he said. "Here, let me open it for you." He ripped the paper off of the box and we discovered another wrapped box inside.

"Don't open this one," he said. "You have to read the card first."

Inside the card was a xeroxed copy of the following poem.

This is a very special gift
That you can never see
The reason that it's special
It's just for you from me

Whenever you are lonely
Or when you're feeling blue
You only have to hold this
gift and know I think of you

You never can unwrap it
Please leave the ribbon tied
Just hold this box close to your heart
It's filled with love inside

Awwww. So cute, so sweet. Clearly a great gift to a mother from a son. But then he added, "I was thinking you could wear it on a string around your neck. That way it would be right next to your heart whenever you need it."

For those of you that know me, and those of you that don't, the chances of me wearing a box on a string around my neck are, well, next to nil. I'll do a lot for my children but I draw the line at wearable art, especially when it's the cardboard kind.


After a quick round of negotiations, we settled on my purse as an appropriate place to keep my box of love.

In the days that passed after Christmas I was busy, along with every other parent in the United States, trying to occupy my children before they went back to school.

We went roller skating, ice skating, to the movies, swimming and hiking. During every one of these activities Child #2 would suddenly ask, as though he suspected I was trying to put one over on him, "Mom! Where's your box of love?"

The love box demands took on the feel of those random sobriety check points that pop up during the holidays. Every time he asked for it I managed to produce the box, although after traveling in my purse for just a week it was already beginning to look squashed. 

The random love box check points were also accompanied by a love box inspection. "Mom, you've got to be careful with your box," he told me after the last inspection. "Do you see this corner here? It's squashed. If it gets torn some of the love might leak out. You wouldn't want that, would you?"

No, no, I absolutely wouldn't want that. And there you have it. The best and the worst all tied up in one, not-so-small, package.