shake it off; you’ll be fine

Twenty years ago, before I had children of my own, I taught seventh-grade language arts.  I became a decent teacher, but my first year, I was a disorganized mess.  At one point, I had my students working on a group project.  Each group was assigned a short story to read and present to the class.  The presentation was supposed to include a dramatic scene from the story.

One of my groups painted a brick wall on butcher paper and taped the paper over a book shelf to be used as their backdrop.  In the final moments of their scene, one student, Heather, was supposed to punch a hole in the fake brick wall.

The scene went well, but when Heather threw her punch, she inadvertently landed her fist on the lip of one of the shelves.  Instead of punching through the paper, she ran her hand into wood.

She was momentarily stunned.  Obviously hitting wood hurts.  She asked to go to go to the nurse.  “Shake it off,” I said.  “You’ll be fine.”

The next day Heather arrived at school with a cast on her arm.  The poor girl broke her wrist.

I was reminded of this story yesterday when I took my youngest daughter to our pediatrician.  “She has a cough,” I explained.

“How long has this been going on?” Doctor Dave asked.

I counted days in my head. “It started when we got our new puppy.  I’m worried she might be allergic to him.  She’s been coughing for about three weeks.”

Our doctor listened here and there with his stethoscope.

“She has walking pneumonia,” he said.

Initially I was so relieved.  “So Ella isn’t coughing because of the puppy.”

“No,” Doctor Dave said.  “She is coughing because of the pneumonia.”

“So, I guess she’s probably not just gonna shake that off?”

Our new puppy, who did not cause Ella's pneumonia

Our new puppy, who did not cause Ella’s pneumonia


my confession

Here is my darkest confession:  I don’t monitor how much TV my children watch.  Yipes!  I know, terrible, right?  But listen, I bicker with my teenagers over chores, and grades, and bed time, and cell phone use.  I insist on table manners, and firm hand shakes, and coughing into elbows.  I point out rudeness, and disrespect, and negativity.  I remind them to save their money, change their underwear, apologize with sincerity, and show gratitude.  I praise honesty, a sense of humor, creativity, and clean hair.  By the end of my day, I really don’t care if they are vegging out in front of Duck Dynasty as long as they are not smoking pot, injecting heroin, getting drunk, or cyber bullying!

My four-year-old has dialed into my slacker attitude when it comes to television.  She pays equal attention to the shows and the commercials.  She often informs me of shampoo that will make my hair shiny, detergent that will keep our clothes stain-free, and cereal that looks really yummy.  Last night at the dinner table, she told us that there is a machine that makes homemade ice cream.

“You just put in the ingredients, and the machine blends it all up until it is ice cream.  Can I have one of those?”

My strategy when one of my children asks for something is to formulate a vague response like, “That sounds sooooo interesting!”  And then hope they forget about it in twenty-four hours.  Frankly, with my four-year-old, this has been a successful approach, but in this instance it didn’t work.  This morning Ella came into the kitchen crying.  I have mentioned before that Ella is Scarlet O’Hara in pink footsie jammies.  She has a flair for drama and prefers to play the role of damsel in distress.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, my tone full of sugar and love (It is important to stay calm here so as not to escalate Ella’s anguish.)

She sobbed into her hands.  “You know that ice cream machine I REALLY wanted?”


“I can’t have one,” she bellowed, wiping snot across the back of her hand.  “The man on the TV said you have to be eighteen years or older.”

the high-maintenance bed-time routine

Like many four-year-olds, Ella has a rather elaborate bed-time routine.  It begins shortly after dinner with a bath and pajamas.  It involves, snacks, puzzles, coloring, singing, teeth-brushing, and a game called daddy is a mountain, where she climbs up Tim onto his shoulders.  All of this is followed by books, shadow puppets, and tucking in.  After tucking, green blanket first, then pink, then red, either Tim or I have to scratch her back until she falls asleep.  She is perhaps the most high-maintenance sleeper of all time.  If any part of this routine is skipped, Ella turns into a hurricane and tears the house apart. (OK, that is an exaggeration, but she does talk a lot about her feelings being hurt and nobody caring whether she is happy.  She is Scarlet O’Hara in pink footsie jammies)

Last night, I was trying to hurry the bath process along because I still needed to finish laundry and make school lunches.  Sensing my urgency, Ella said, “Taking care of three kids and Chaucer (our dog) is a lot of work.”

“Yes it is,” I replied and then joking, said, “Maybe we should get rid of Chaucer.”

“NO!” Ella shrieked, wide-eyed with outrage.  And then with a sweet smile on her face and a head full of shampoo bubbles, she calmly suggested we get rid of her brother.

the scariest thing

In March, my son turned fifteen, got his learner’s permit, and started driver’s ed.  Cole has been sincerely shocked to discover that being super good at the video game Grand Theft Auto does not necessarily translate into being super good at merging into a roundabout in an actual automobile.  (Side note here:  Cole does not personally own Grand Theft Auto.  That is a violent, nasty video game which he only plays at his friend’s house.  I am confident that not allowing him to own the game makes me a better mother than my neighbor.)

So, Cole and I were out practicing his driving when he sneezed twice in quick succession.  After his final sneeze, eyes wide open, he gripped the steering wheel and straightened himself stiffly in the seat.

“Holy Crap!” he yelled.  “That is the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.”

I reminded him that his dad died when he was seven.  He has had a cast on his left arm four times.  And there was that time three years ago when he had a hundred and four fever while hiking and had to swim across the Snoqualmie River in order to get back home.

He shook his head.  “No,” he replied, catching his breath.  “Sneezing while driving is the scariest thing I have ever done.”

best game of all time

I have two daughters.  Meg is seventeen, and Ella is four.  Despite the thirteen years between them, they are, in some ways, peas in a pod.  They both love Mexican food; they both love tormenting their brother; they both love watching reruns of Scooby Doo (sometimes I think these shows are too scary for Ella, but she always reminds me that the monsters aren’t real; they are people in masks). Still, Meg being a sophisticated teen doesn’t always indulge Ella when it comes to fun and games.

Yesterday I walked in to the toy room to see the two of them playing together.

“Hi, Mommy,” Ella said.

“Hi, Baby.  Whatcha doin’?”

“We are playing the best childhood game of all time,” Meg replied.

“Yeah,” Ella said.  “Don’t Let the Balloon Touch the Ground.”

“Hmmm,” I replied.  “Don’t Let the Balloon Touch the Ground is a very good game.”

“Yes,” Meg said as she tapped the pink balloon in Ella’s direction.  “It won best game of all time by a slim margin, narrowly beating out the second best game of all time.”

“And what is the second best game of all time?” I asked.

Meg popped the balloon in the air and looked at me like she could not believe I even needed to ask this question.  In a tone full of superiority and the wisdom of ages, my seventeen-year-old replied, “The Ground is Lava!”

I apologize for my inappropriate husband

My four-year-old daughter has a set of toys she plays with in the bathtub, which includes Naked Barbie.  Over the past several months, I have often found Naked Barbie in very compromising positions, and when this happens, I always blame my husband.  I am convinced that Tim is manipulating Naked Barbie into promiscuous poses in an attempt to scandalize me, but no matter how often I accuse him, he always vehemently denies it.

Today when I got in the shower I found Naked Barbie canoodling with My Pretty Pony.  I immediately phoned my husband and when he answered his cell I said, “There is NO WAY My Pretty Pony simply fell in that position.”

Tim laughed and laughed and laughed.  “It was me!” he admitted.  “It was totally me.”

I apologize to Naked Barbie and My Pretty Pony on behalf of my entire family.

I apologize to Naked Barbie and My Pretty Pony on behalf of my entire family.

apparently my son is a sexy beast

My son recently celebrated his fifteenth birthday, and once he put together his lawn mowing money and his birthday money, he had enough to buy a new snowboard.

He found the board he was after, and I gave him my credit card and permission to buy the item.

The snowboard came in the mail today and while I was cleaning up the box and paperwork, I noticed that my son had the snowboard company include a gift note with the board.  Cole had written this gift note to himself.  It says, “Cole you are a sexy beast.  Here is your premium fancy snowboard. Your future self.”

When I asked him about the note he said, “The website asked me if it was a gift.  I said yes. Then they asked if I wanted to include a gift note.  Heck yeah, I wanted a gift note, so I wrote one for myself.  Now that I know the note is an option, I’m gonna do that every time I order something.”


Note my son wrote to himself.

Note my son wrote to himself.