For Cody.

Fact: Once upon a time, a dog ate my couch.

I was in my late 20s, sharing an apartment with a very sweet and funny bulimic friend and working full-time at a nonprofit for a part-time salary. The apartment was the bottom half of a beautiful old house. The landlord lived upstairs; she was nice, but understandably businesslike. I’m pretty sure the lease had a “no pets” clause. I don’t recall how we got around that.

Here are the other things I recall about that dog:

  1. He was a gorgeous German Shepherd.
  2. His name was Cody.
  3. He had been tormented by his previous owner’s white German Shepherd.
  4. He was very sweet.
  5. The couch destruction happened over the course of a couple of days, but the destruction was total.

I had never cared much for the couch — it was covered in awful floral fabric. It had come from either my roommate’s parents’ house or Goodwill. The couch wasn’t the issue. The issue was clearly the dog.

I would like to say we worked really hard to figure out why he was chewing. I would love to say we figured it out and addressed the underlying issues. Instead, I’m going to tell the truth: I drove him to a shelter and surrendered him. I didn’t mention the chewing on the paperwork because I wanted to give him a fighting chance of being adopted. I have no idea what happened to him.

I have never, ever, cried so hard as when I got back in my car.

Day 26: It’s Silly

Well, here we are at the end of our Thanksgiving break, ready to wrap up five days of delightfully unstructured family time with a rousing round of Let’s Build a Native American Dwelling.

To be clear: I am thrilled that the school is including First Nations cultures in their curriculum, but I have some questions:

  1. What are the kids supposed to learn by making a model of a dwelling outside of school hours?
  2. Why not take them to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site? It’s half an hour away, it’s the site of the most sophisticated prehistoric culture north of Mexico, and it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  3. Is Cahokia too far? How about the museum on the grounds of the Gateway Arch?
  4. No time or money for a field trip? I get it, times are tough. How about having an actual Native American person come speak to the kids?
  5. Why is our family time, which is already scarce, being infringed upon by this task?
  6. Why doesn’t my kid understand why he’s being asked to do this project? (He doesn’t; I asked him and he said, “No.”)
  7. Why not have the kids work together as a group to build a life-size dwelling? And then eat lunch inside it? And talk about what it would be like to live in it, break it down, and put it up over and over?

Initially, The Boo had selected an Iroqouis Long House from the options on the assignment sheet. But when he realized that he’d have to give up some of his free time to do the project, he switched to the one he thought would be the easiest.

And that, friends, is why I’m spending a chunk of today helping my kid make a model of a tipi.

Day 25: It’s Crazy

Someone else’s photo with my word. Credit where it’s due y’all!

A while back, A friend and I had a conversation about our husbands. There was a lot of laughter involved, and no we did not discuss anything dirty. I don’t remember what she told me about her husband, but I do remember the gist of one thing she said: People need to talk about their marriages more, so they realize that everyone’s marriage is crazy.

I like that philosophy. I like it a lot. And I think it applies to a lot more than marriages.

For example: I cyber-stalk stray dogs because I can’t have one right now. I go on PetFinder, I set my parameters, I scroll past all the ones that seem too high-maintenance, and then I find one that seems perfect. Good with kids, good with other dogs, not from a puppy mill, neither a puppy nor a senior dog because I don’t want another baby and I don’t want to lose a dog a year after I adopt it.

When I find a dog I like, I bookmark it. I don’t always tell anyone about it, because this is my private little crazyfest. Then I check on it every so often. Or talk myself out of checking on it. And then, one day, it’s gone. Adopted. Home.

This exercise in craziness has taught me a few things:

  1. There are stacks and stacks of people who want to adopt dogs, and therefore I don’t need to save every dog I fall in love with.
  2. There are stacks and stacks of great dogs, and therefore there is no rush.
  3. There is a shelter 10 minutes from my house that will happily talk to me about their dogs, all of which they know really well.

So maybe I’m not so crazy after all.

Day 24: It’s Simple

So fascinating, right?

Years ago I read the excellently entertaining memoir Julie and Julia, wherein the author makes every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. One of the earliest chapters is all that’s really stuck with me. I believe it’s the one where she makes a simple potato-leek soup.

Actually, I lied. It’s not the chapter that’s stuck with me. It’s one thought within it: simple is not the same thing as easy. I can’t recall whether the soup turned out well (part of the fun of the book is that some of her efforts are not successful, so we readers get the thrill of struggle and failure without the effort). I suspect it didn’t, because of the nugget I remember.

Simple is not the same thing as easy.

I think of this sometimes when I’m in a parenting struggle — like getting my son to brush his teeth before bed. It’s simple, right? Brush your teeth, I’ll come floss and check a couple of spots, and then we can read. No. Simple, but not easy.

Why, you ask? Clearly, you are either not a parent, or have robots for children. Bedtime is bedlam, friends. Everyone is tired and just wants to go lay down or go get a glass of wine. And there are so many fascinating things between the bedroom and the bathroom. Heck, there are so many fascinating things IN the bathroom. Last night it was the washcloth I’d hung up to dry.

After the third or fourth time I’d asked The Boo to get started on brushing, he picked up the damn washcloth and just… looked at it. And I thought about what to do. Getting angry doesn’t help, even though anger is often what I feel at times like this. So I took a deep breath (oxygen DOES help) and went with logic: “Honey, more time brushing means less time reading.”

I’d like to say he responded to that immediately, but he didn’t. It still took a while before he decided to start brushing his teeth, so we spent less time reading, and he was not happy about that. Simple.

But not easy.

Day 23: It’s Delicious

How do you write about Thanksgiving without rehashing all the clichés that have come before? I’m not sure it’s possible. You’d have to avoid family recipes, family feuds, turkey disasters AND turkey triumphs. Thankfulness is out too of course, whether it’s an overabundance or lack thereof. And please please not another “what I’m thankful for” list.

But what about crowded grocery stores? Aha! There we go.

I do my best to avoid the Wednesday crush, but some of my nicest holiday moments have involved Thanksgiving Day supermarket dashes with my brother for forgotten butter or cinnamon or slivered almonds (he’s a fancy cook). I don’t recall the specific conversations we had in the car, or while waiting in line, just the feeling of spending time with him away from the rest of the family. I love them all dearly, but one-on-one time with a family member during a long weekend of group togetherness feels like a gift.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to Google “bacon maple brussels sprouts.”

Day 22: It’s Lucky

Years and years ago, I planned a spelunking (cave exploration) trip with a group of girlfriends. We figured out what clothing and gear we would need, and I recall sleeping bags, so I think camping was on the agenda.

We set off in someone’s car, probably stuffing our faces with questionable snacks, and then we hit traffic. Crazy traffic, a standstill. We ended up turning around because we had lost the light (I think it was fall) and in addition to being bummed out about not having time to go spelunking, nobody wanted to pitch a tent in the dark. I think we may have gone to a bar instead.

Later (this was in the dark ages before smartphones) we found out that the traffic had been caused by a horrific accident. And that it had happened shortly before we would have been traveling that stretch of highway. We talked about how lucky we were, how easily it could have been different.

A similar scenario played out again a few days ago, with a much narrower time margin and much more dire consequences had I been in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, a traffic delay could have gotten me killed. And it’s made me think: if the difference between being fine and being in danger is just traffic and timing, is it possible to keep yourself safe? Or is safety just an illusion?

I do my best to be aware of my surroundings, take note of anything or anyone that seems weird, make sure I know where the nearest exit is if I’m in a large building. But that level of vigilance wears me out, frankly, and now I’m questioning how much my efforts matter. Also, I’m not interested in living in fear — my energy and time are limited, and I don’t want to waste either of those precious resources.

So I’ll just be over here, sharing a piece of cake with my kid, feeling lucky.

Day 21: It’s Academic


“Yes, ba?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, ba.”

This exchange happened about six times yesterday, and every time it was sincere and sweet. But after the sixth time, I decided to investigate.

“I noticed you’ve been telling me you love me a lot today. I love it, but I’m also wondering why.”

“Because I’m thankful for your love.”

They must be talking about thankfulness at school. Actually, I know they are because there was a worksheet on it in the weekly stack-o-paper that arrives on Fridays. And that’s one worksheet I may actually keep.

Yeah, shocker, I don’t keep every scrap of paper my kid brings through the door. I can’t. I’d have to rent a storage space by the time he hits second grade.

I go through The Stack with The Boo on Saturday mornings and talk to him about each sheet of paper, or try to. Sometimes he says, “You don’t need to worry about that,” in a dismissive tone I know he picked up from me. Sometimes he uses the phrase “dumb stupid” to describe a task, and I can’t say I blame him.

But sometimes, he tells me things about his work that shine a light on his experience at school. I learn what he likes doing (math) and what he doesn’t (most writing tasks). I find out what makes him proud (coming up with ideas on his own) and what gets him excited (finishing a math color-by-numbers page). It’s honestly nice to have a window into what he does for seven hours a day, because if I ask him point-blank about his day, I get a minimal reply.

So maybe, this Thursday, I should say I’m thankful for worksheets.

It’s complicated, like many tech things are these days.

In the beginning, I created a Facebook account on my desktop (!) computer and surreptitiously logged in at work to see what my friends were liking and not liking. Later, I put it on my phone, so it was super-easy to get that hit of what kinda-sorta sometimes felt like connection. Once I realized how much time and battery life it was sucking up, I deleted the app. I was off Facebook for nearly a year except for occasional peeks.

But I still had Twitter on there. And Instagram.

And then a friend became gravely ill, and Facebook was the conduit for updates. I put the app back on my phone until he got better, then deleted it. Then another friend went into the hospital and I put the app back on my phone. Once the crisis phase was past, I deleted it but still logged in on my laptop because there was a memorial service to plan.

I took Twitter off my phone long ago — too crazy-negative — but I still have Instagram because I like the tiny creative task of posting. Also, I follow Will Smith and Ellen Degeneres, and I NEED those hits of daily funniness. The Rock is pretty good for a laugh, too.

The other day, though, I logged into Facebook again because now there’s a memorial book in the works for my friend. While I was on there, I noticed that people were posting on the page for this blog (I had forgotten that set up auto-publish via Facebook years ago). It wasn’t easy to notice, either, since the notification icon is tiny and up in a corner.

I replied to the comments, some of which had been sitting there for a week. That’s probably not great social media management, but I did respond. So thanks, folks, for reading and commenting. I will answer your comments, but it might take a while.

And while I’m there, I may as well ask for guitar teacher recommendations for The Boo.

Day 19: Car Talk

There’s something about the car that prompts The Boo (not his real name) to tell me things. Not secrets, exactly, but the interesting things that lurk beyond “Can Kyle come over?” and “I had Spanish today.”

A few weeks ago, it was this: “Mama, did you know that Jesus was born on Christmas and died on Easter?”


“Well, um, that’s part of the story, honey. Where did you learn that?”

“Penelope (not her real name) told me. She’s in PSR.”

For the uninitiated, PSR stands for Parish School of Religion. Penelope is learning about Catholicism — and sharing her newfound knowledge with her friends. Which is fine — I’m all for kids learning about religion, and I’d been planning to introduce our kid to the major religions. Just not this soon.

No time like the present, right? I addressed the inaccuracies in The Boo’s understanding of the life of Jesus as best I could (I’m agnostic, but I have basic knowledge of the major religions). I also made a short speech on freedom of worship for good measure. Then I made a mental note to research comparative religion books for kids.

I got a recommendation from a friend, and looked at the library next time we were there. When we asked for kids’ books on religion, we were guided to a shelf of titles about Christian faiths, with a few books on Judaism and Islam sprinkled in. Not exactly what I was looking for. So I reserved a few online; the one above is the winner so far, for the simplicity, clarity, and inclusion of six major faiths.

Doesn’t cover how Wiccans or First Peoples worship, though. Guess that’s in the sequel.

Day 18: Snow Day

A few days ago it snowed enough that all of the schools were closed; ours called it the night before. The Boo woke up in a winter wonderland, free of obligations. He was outside by 6:30, clearing off the patio furniture (I’m as mystified as you are) and hauling a sled around (we don’t have much of a hill).

He kept asking me to come out and have a snowball fight with him, but there were two issues with that. We were having new windows put in (snow is not a problem; rain would have been), and I’m nursing a foot tendon injury back to full functionality. Traipsing about in the snow is not what the physical therapist ordered.

I told The Boo that I was working (true) and needed to stay inside to be available for the installation crew (less true), but would play with him after they left. He split his time evenly between being outside and playing Mario Kart in the basement, and was reasonably patient. We sat down for lunch and made plans for our big battle, and the window crew finished up shortly after that.

The snow was wet and heavy — perfect for snowmen and snowballs, as long as they weren’t packed too hard or thrown too forcefully. We hurled globs of snow at each other, laughed a lot, played a bit of snow baseball, and went in.

All in all, a perfect day.

I'm over 50. I'm raising a fifth grader. Sometimes he posts too.


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