I’m a terrible soccer mom

It has been over a year since my mom died, and after her passing, my brother and I had to clean out her house.  It was horrible, time-consuming work, and we were both saddled with guilt over the truck loads we sent to the landfill or off to various charities.  Surely, we should be more sentimental.  Surely, we should want the dozens of photo albums, her full set of china, her old rosary, but we didn’t.  We both had complete houses, full of all we needed.  We saw how carefully she had kept our high school Lettermans’ jackets, trophies, and ribbons.  In the end, we pitched it all.

This memory was brought to mind lately when I was asked to create a framed memory keepsake for my oldest daughter.  It is a tradition at her high school that the moms each put together a collection of soccer memories and display them at the end-of-the-year banquet.  I can’t help but think this tradition was started by one of those scrap-booking moms with loads of artistic talent and way to much time on her hands.

I told Meg that I planned to compete for worst shadow-box of all time.  In my head I keep fast forwarding forty years and seeing her cleaning out my attic and tossing the shadow box in the dump pile.  And I am OK with that because, frankly, a middle-aged woman who hangs a tribute to high-school soccer in her kitchen is kinda sad.

Still, I have to put together this testament to her years of athleticism, and I am kinda pissy about it.  My current plan is to line the frame with money.  Then, in a year I can mail it to her at college; it will have value, and won’t end up in a landfill.

Meg in the goal, 2006

Meg in the goal, 2006


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 husband had a rather wild adolescence, so whenever our youngest child does anything remotely sneaky, I blame my husband.  Now, one could argue that my husband had a rather normal adolescence, and I had a completely abnormal one.  I was, in fact, so straight-laced as a teen, my freshman year in college I received the nickname the pure one, or simply Po for short.  Not only did I never get drunk, I never drank at all.  I never smoked, did drugs, stole anything, or snuck out of the house.  I never cheated on a test, and I never lied.  I skipped school once and after fifteen minutes of sitting with my friends at the donut shop, I found a pay phone and called my mom to tell her I was skipping school.  I was concerned she would worry if the school called her to report my absence.  The truth is, I was well into my thirties before I was even in the same room as someone smoking pot.  I am not entirely sure how I avoided all the normal pitfalls of puberty, I was either very naïve or wise beyond my years; I am still not sure which.

My youngest, who takes after her father in many ways, has a keen understanding of the moments she is left unsupervised.  The second I step into the shower, the moment I go to retrieve the mail, the very instant I answer a phone call, she bursts into action.  I call this behavior doodle-poppin’.  My definition of doodle-poppin’ is exhibiting mischievous behavior which is too funny to punish.

Monday, while I was weeding the yard, Ella made “soup,” which basically means she filled my stock pot with water and dumped in ten dollars worth of paprika and oregano.

Wednesday, while I was in the shower, Ella took all the wrapping paper, ribbons, and gift bags out of the closet and wrapped up stuff she owns.  When I discovered the mess spread from one end of the hall to the other, Ella began giving me these wrapped up items as gifts.

“This is a present for you, Mommy.”

How do you yell at a four-year-old who just handed you a stuffed rabbit wrapped in Christmas paper with the ears sticking out?

Then she handed me a gift bag.  I pulled out yards of ribbon and sheets of tissue.  “I don’t think there is anything in here,” I said.

Ella surveyed me with a disdain one might feel for a spoiled child asking for candy.  “The ribbon is the gift, Mom.”

“Of course it is.  I love green ribbon!!”

Today, while I was answering emails, Ella took paint and markers and colored all her doll furniture.  When I discovered the messy project, Ella could see the frustration on my face.

“I know you think this is doodle-poppin’,” she said.  “But I think it is art!”

PS  I went to take a photo of my daughter’s “art,” but my oldest daughter has taken my photo memory card out of the camera.  She did this a week ago to complete a school project.  I am certain I will never see my memory card again.

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.

for $75 I’ll kill her myself

Meg with King Oberon.   (King Oberon, March 1994 - January 2005)

Meg with King Oberon.
(King Oberon, March 1994 – January 2005)

Since Sunday was Mother’s Day, I thought I would share a funny story about my own mom.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I had two dogs, King Oberon and Asticou.  (I actually had three dogs, but Bronte turned out to be crazy and attacked my neighbor).  By my mid-thirties, I had only one dog left, Asticou.

At this point, I was between husbands.  My first husband had died ,and I had not yet met my second husband.  Asticou was aging and had a host of health issues.  I worried that one day my kids and I would wake up and find Asticou dead.  I wasn’t sure that any of us were emotionally prepared for that possibility.  My parents suggested that they take care of my dog and put her to sleep when the time came.  I took them up on their offer.

So, Asticou went to live with my folks, and although I was not present for the next part of this story, this is the way my father always told it:

Asticou seemed to be getting worse, so your mom and I decided it was time to put her down.  Mom insisted on doing it and packed the dog off to the Humane Society.  About an hour later she returned.  I stood at the window and watched her exit the car, then saw Asticou jump out after her.  I thought it was sweet.  Your mom was a tough girl, but obviously, she couldn’t put the dog to sleep.  I met her on the porch.

With sympathy I said, “So, you couldn’t do it?”

“No,” your mother snapped.  “They wanted seventy-five dollars.  For seventy-five dollars, I’ll kill her myself!”

(OK, just to clarify, my mother was not a cold-hearted puppy murderer.  To my knowledge, my mother never killed anything except houseflies, wasps, carpenter ants, and the occasional rodent.)

Thinking that Asticou was on her death-bed, my mom began feeding her waffles for breakfast and hotdogs for lunch.  Every night she gave my dog a bowl of ice cream before bed.  Asticou quickly gained twenty pounds.  She looked like an ottoman, skinny legs with a broad flat back.  Filled with a new-found zest for life, and a belly full of spaghetti, my ailing dog survived for two more years.  My mother’s waffles actually gave her the will to live.

Asticou, before she got fat on hot dogs and pasta

Asticou, before she got fat on hot dogs and pasta


Bronte, who looks totally sweet, but tried to eat my neighbor


PS  Asticou was named after the Inn where I used to work.  King Oberon was named after the Shakespeare character from Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Bronte was named after Charlotte and Emily Bronte–authors of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, respectively.

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.”