Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cleaning House

When it comes to parenting, I am (and probably always will be) a bit of a hard ass. I like to think of it as holding my daughter accountable; Morgan, on the other hand, likes to think of it as me RUINING HER LIFE. Yes, I understand the implications of this dynamic and I am fully aware that this means she may always like David better than me. He's also the one who puts chocolate chips in her lunch and has promised her 5,693 ponies.  But we all know I will be the shoulder she cries on when none of those damn ponies show up.

In the midst of our holiday decorating, much of our daily housekeeping went by the wayside, including most of Morgan's toys and crafts. I will spare you any photos of the chaos, as they may be deemed too graphic for children.  In summary, our family room looked like we had been ransacked by a herd of buffalo or the victims of a rare indoor tornado. It was time for clean up.

I announced to Morgan play time was over and that it was time to put our house back together. I gave her the standard 5 minute warning to wrap up what she was doing and told her I would be in to check her progress. I went back to my own housework, less than confident in her ability to meet my deadline. When I returned 5 minutes later, I found Morgan laying on the floor, surrounded by a sea of Barbie carcasses. "It's just too much!" she wailed. I calmly (yes, calmly) explained that she made the mess and she needed to clean it up. This is not a new revelation for my child, but one that she has a really hard time accepting. 

I gave my daughter two choices: either she cleaned up her mess, or Mom does it for her. And if Mom got involved, clean up was going to consist of garbage bags and toys that would be banished to the garage...or the landfill. My stubborn, stubborn daughter then decided to call my bluff. Thanks to some help from Hefty, the joke was sadly on her. I went to work, gathering up everything from Cabbage Patch Dolls to bits of crayon. Nothing was spared. In mere minutes, the family room was immaculate, its beauty only slightly compromised by the profuse sobbing that filled our house. I was also having none of that. Off to her room she went, with the strict instructions that she could not emerge until she was done crying. In terms of her toys, those could only be earned back if she cleaned her bedroom the way she should have cleaned the family room. My terms were clear and non-negotiable. 

Within a few minutes, the house fell silent. I quietly peeked into her room, only to see Morgan hunched on the floor, scribbling furiously. I crept back to the kitchen, mostly just enjoying the quiet. As I began loading the dishwasher, I heard her door open, her feet shuffling down the hall. I turned to greet her, only to see this note on the floor next to me:

I went back to my dishes, only for the same scene to repeat itself several times over the next 20 minutes.  Note Number 2:

Note Number 3, written only after not getting a response to note Number 2:

Note Number 4 (at this point I was pretty sure she was trying to tell me her room was clean):

And finally, note Number 5, the meat of the matter:

I waited a few minutes, trying to suppress the grin that kept creeping onto my face. This was a serious parenting moment, not to be undone by my daughter's keen negotiating tactics. I knocked on her door and swung it open, only to be greeted by a tear-stained face and one spotless bedroom. She looked at me expectantly, trying to read my reaction.

I walked around her room, noticing her bed was made, her stuffed animals were carefully arranged, and her dirty laundry actually in the hamper. With a silent nod, I signed off on her efforts. Morgan squealed and immediately recruited Dad (who again stepped in as her personal hero) to retrieve the garbage bag from the garage. We unpacked it together, Morgan careful to place each toy in its proper spot.

It's been two weeks, and the family room remains relatively clean. I'd like to think she learned a little life lesson from this experience, but I am pretty sure she's only putting away her toys because I very subtly left the garbage bag sitting next to the TV.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


In lieu of a family gift exchange this year, we are sponsoring a family in need. I don't know why it took us so long to have this epiphany, as I am pretty sure the same chenille throw has been re-gifted among households for the last five years. As we talked about our plan with Morgan, I tried to explain that we have much to be thankful for this year, and that some families are just not as fortunate. I shared several stories of people I know, people who work hard every day just to make it from one paycheck to the next. These are rarely the people who ask for help; rather, they struggle quietly, never sharing the intimate details of daily hunger or the fear that comes each month when the rent is due.

As she often does when we talk about hard things, Morgan sat in silence for a few moments.

"Mom, can I talk to you in private for a minute?" (Morgan likes to ask me this when she feels uncertain or uncomfortable with something she's processing.)

"Sure, punkin." we stepped into the hall and she began breathlessly whispering into my ear.

"I just don't think it's fair."

"You don't think what's fair?"

"Well, if people are working just as hard as you and Dad, why do we have more than them?"

"That's a good question, one that I don't have the answer to. And it's not fair, because there are lots of families who will be cold and hungry this year, and there will be some kids who don't get anything for Christmas. But that is why we are going to try to help make Christmas a little better for one family."

"Maybe, Mom, maybe we could help more families. Maybe we could give them some of my clothes or my toys. Do you think that would help?"

I nodded. And then my heart burst. Because life is complicated and messy. And the older she gets, the more she understands that. And the more she wants to help.  And that makes me want to be a better mother, a better wife, a better friend. Because we are all in this together. 

To those of you fortunate enough to share today with people you love and cherish, relish these moments. To those of you tortured by the prospect of having to pass potatoes and cut turkey, be grateful you have potatoes to pass and a turkey to cut. And to those of you who are alone today, either by choice or circumstance, know that we are thinking of you. And we are doing our small part to make the holidays just a little brighter. Because, indeed, we are all in this together. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Strong Like Bull

Morgan recently had her annual well check. In scheduling her appointment, I had a brief argument with the doctor's office as to whether Morgan was eligible for her visit. Like most insurance companies, we can only schedule well checks every 12 months. After several moments of haggling, I was able to convince the scheduler that Morgan hadn't actually been in for almost 2 years, not the 11 months she was suggesting. This little nugget of information was actually quite significant, as I knew it meant my kiddo was healthy enough that we hadn't checked in with our pediatrician in nearly 24 months, which is practically unheard of in the land of small children, where ear infections and runny noses often reign supreme.

Morgan was much less impressed with this victory, as she knew that this visit was also going to include a flu shot. We talked about it a lot on the way over there (I am not much for the bait and switch) and I tried to assure her that, at the very most, she would feel a slight pinch. She wasn't convinced.

When we arrived, the nurse was great. She showed Morgan all of the equipment they would be using, even giving her a paper gown to allow for the most legitimate medical experience. Not surprisingly, my child was not buying any of it. She can be a real tough sell.

I, on the other hand, thought this was the perfect time to stage a quick photo session. Despite her anxiety, she looked adorable, and like such a big kid. I reflected on how much time we had spent on that table when she was an infant, the insane number of calls I made to the pediatrician every time my daughter had a hair out of place. 

And here we were, 6 years later. Morgan is strong and healthy, smart enough to speak for herself when her doctor started asking questions about how many fruits and vegetables she eats and whether she plays outside regularly. And when it came time for her shot, she was a champ. Not only did she not shed a tear, she watched the needle the entire time, proudly announcing that she was now braver than any of the kids in her class. Not even a little bit true, but I let her have her moment.

I left the office that day feeling grateful. I called David, giving him the same glowing report I had received. We complimented each other on our good genes and went about our day. Our kid was healthy as a horse. Until early Wednesday morning, when I was abruptly awakened by desperate yelling coming from her room. "Mom!!!  Hurry!!!"

I flung the door open and switched on the light, only to be greeted by the sight (and smell) of Tuesday night's dinner. "Sorry, Mom. I didn't make it," she said, so matter of fact. There were no tears, no panic, just the annoyance that she was going to have to get out of bed. Even that was short lived as soon as she realized she got to set up camp on the couch and start watching cartoons in the middle of the night.

Fortunately, she was only sick for two days. David generously stayed home with her, using that time to both nurse her fever and map out potential hunting spots. By Friday, she was back to herself and ready for school, only to have the good fortune of this year's first snow day. It was a win all around.

As Morgan heads off to school tomorrow, I will never again take for granted my healthy child. Unfortunately, I may also never again be able to eat hot dogs. I will spare you the details, but if you've ever had a sick kiddo, I know you feel my pain.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

House Rules

David and I were raised on coffee. He used to have a cup each morning before school to wash down his multivitamins (no wonder he's only 5'6") and my grandma used to set me up at her farmhouse kitchen table with a cup of coffee, the bowl of sugar, and a stack of ginger snap cookies (no wonder I've been chubby my whole life). 

The sight, smell, and taste of coffee are now ingrained in who we are. Not to mention, David has a tendency to grunt and walk around in circles until he's had his first cup of day. As a result, coffee cups are often littered throughout our house. David will often mindlessly set them down as he goes about his morning, only to make a panicked yell for everyone to stop what they're doing and go find his mug. I have found mugs in the laundry room, Morgan's room, and even the bathroom. No place is safe. 

I recently went in to Morgan's room one morning to wake her for school, carrying my own cup of coffee with me. As Morgan rolled over, she slowly opened one eye, wincing at the day ahead. Suddenly, she shot straight up, eyes wide.

"Mom, I have to tell you something."

"What?" (Those words always make me nervous, as it usually means she has broken something and hidden the evidence.) 

Remember how we got new carpet in my room last year?" (It was two months ago, but children clearly have their own sense of time.)

"Well, I've made a new rule. There is no coffee allowed in my room now. I'm gonna need you to take that back to the kitchen."

"Fair enough." I walked my mug back to the counter and returned to her room.

"Now hold out your hands."

"I'm sorry, what?"

"I need you to show me that you actually put it down."

I held them out for her to assess, chuckling not only at her new rules, but at her commitment to enforcing them. The rules I write - a jumping off point for negotiation. The rules she writes - the law of the land. Her future college roommates are going to love her so much.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


I am pleased to report my daughter knows every syllable of the Pledge of Allegiance. Listening to her recite it warms my heart, bringing me back to my own elementary school days, when we began each morning with a unified chorus resonating down the halls.

Alas, despite her true patriotism, Morgan is struggling a bit in her U.S. history.  Her first grade class recently finished a unit on the Statue of Liberty. Morgan not only brought home her own hand made flag (don't count the number of stars, she may have cherry picked the states that align with our family's political views), but also a silhouette of the one and only Lady Liberty. She was beaming; they've been on our fridge for weeks.

It was only when David shared with me what happened in class that I began to question our daughter's commitment to our country. 

You see, Morgan's class was having lengthy discussion about the history surrounding the Statue of Liberty and how she came to be such a central figure in America. One of the key parts of the story is how the U.S. acquired the statue. Morgan's teacher asked if anyone knew where we got the Statue of Liberty. Hands shot up, and Morgan's was no exception. She waved her hand wildly, confident in her answer. 

When she was finally called on, she took a deep breath before exuberantly exclaiming, "Vegas! We got the Statue of Liberty from Las Vegas!!!!"  France, Vegas, whatever. Maybe she's right; maybe not everything that happens in Vegas stays there after all.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


The police were at our house for a little over an hour last Sunday. David was outside working on his truck, and I was getting ready for a birthday party. He walked into the kitchen, his eyes scanning the counter. "I need my phone. I need my phone." I stood, reaching across the table to hand it to him. "There's a lady in our driveway. She's been walking for five hours and she doesn't know where she is. I told her I was going to get my phone and she just said, 'please don't leave me here.' We need to get her help."

We sat her on the patio and got her a glass of water. She explained that she was new to Boise and had gone for a walk that morning, only to become confused. Her hands writhed in her lap, giving away the fear and nervousness that lurked behind her calm smile. Morgan danced around her, asking questions about who she was and where she lived. "Lucille," she said, Morgan's questions seemingly putting her at ease. Morgan explained to her that we were going to a party, proudly showing Lucille the bright blue polish she had picked for her friend. The conversation fell into silence again, Lucille looking back to her lap. I noticed the tips of several of her fingers were missing, and I stopped myself from asking her what happened.

I began to ask Lucille some questions, trying to collect enough information to help her get home. She had a daughter. And two granddaughters. She lived with her daughter. No wait, she stayed with her granddaughter. They were 6 and 12. Or maybe one of them was 20. She was able to provide me with names, and I immediately began searching online. I discovered that her daughter did indeed live just a few blocks from us, but I could not find a phone number to call her.

David explained to Lucille that we were going to call the police. "But the police only come when you're in trouble," her voice trembled. "No, they also come to help, and today they're going to help us." And they did. Two officers pulled in front of our house; we met them in the driveway so as not to further upset Lucille. I gave them all the information I had, handing them the smattering of information I was able to pull from Facebook. "We're going to leave her here, if that's alright. The last thing she needs right now is to be put in the back of a police car." I looked at my watch, we were going to be late for the party.

While the officers searched for family, we again chatted with Lucille. By now, Morgan had brought out her favorite pencil and a note card, showing Lucille her first grade penmanship as she wrote out the words Happy Birthday. Lucille told us that her husband had recently died and that she moved here from Lewiston. "I lived in Boise once, but it was a long time ago," she explained. We chatted about the weather, and her walk that morning, trying to make light of what was clearly troubling all of us. The party could wait, this was much more important.

The screech of tires pulled my eyes to the road. A young woman leaped from her car, running across the street while her driver's side door swung widely open. "I am so sorry, I am just so sorry!  We didn't know she got out. I am supposed to be babysitting and I didn't even hear her leave." I tried to calm her, letting her know that her grandmother was safe. She wasn't listening, "We have alarms on all the doors, and I thought she was napping. She won't wear her ID and I was supposed to be in charge of her." She looked desperately at us and then the officers, trying to gauge whether she was indeed in trouble for leaving her grandmother unattended.

"She's okay, she's really okay," I explained. "If we see your grandma again, we'll know exactly how to get her home." Lucille stood, the wave of relief clear as she met eyes with someone she knew. Down the sidewalk they walked, her granddaughter guiding her back to the car. "Good bye Lucille, it was nice to meet you!!!" Morgan exclaimed loudly. Lucille turned back "Good bye, Morgan. It was nice to meet you, too."

As they all pulled away, we scrambled to finish getting ready for the party. There was no time to discuss or reflect on the last hour. We piled into the truck, frantically trying to make up for lost time. As we rode in silence, David and I shared a glance. Lucille, I had discovered, was just a few years older than our own parents. The time we spent with her was humbling, a painful reminder of how fragile life is. Lucille was alone and scared, at the mercy of two strangers on a Sunday afternoon.

"Mom, but do you think she'll be okay?" Morgan suddenly spoke from the back seat, reminding me that she, too, had shared in this experience. Before I could respond, she answered her own question with another. "We just needed to make her feel comfortable. Do you think we made her feel comfortable? I think we really made her feel comfortable."  "Yes, Morgan, I think we did the best we could."

And I do, because making someone feel safe is sometimes more important than just about anything else.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Puppy Love

Morgan turned 6 last month. It was the first year she let us sing Happy Birthday to her without crying. She and I went out for a special breakfast that morning, where she swore me to secrecy. "Mom, I don't want you telling anyone it's my birthday, okay? It's my special day and I just don't want anyone to know." I agreed, not mentioning a word to our hostess as we were being seated. Within seconds, the following proclamation was being bellowed from across the booth, "IT'S MY BIRTHDAY AND I AM SIX AND MY MOM IS TAKING ME OUT FOR A SPECIAL BREAKFAST TODAY!!!"  Not two minutes later, we were engulfed in a birthday serenade by six waitresses and presented with the biggest chocolate doughnut I had ever seen. So much for keeping her birthday a secret.

But her birthday isn't the only secret Morgan's been keeping. You see, my daughter had gone and found herself a beau. And his name is Tyler. And he's an older man. A second grader. 

Morgan and Tyler have been two peas in a pod since last year. His mom teaches 1st grade with David, and the kids have the run of school before and after class each day. Morgan and Tyler play games, run feral, and occasionally make each other oatmeal in David's classroom. It's very romantic.

It should come as no surprise that Tyler was at the top of Morgan's guest list for her birthday party. She was so excited to invite him that we hand delivered his invitation. At 8:00 at night. On a Thursday. Morgan and Tyler hadn't seen each other all summer, so there were a few minutes of awkwardness. Until they remembered they were in love. And then they were off to reek havoc, just like old times. 

The night of her party, Morgan asked me about 5,964 times whether Tyler was coming. I assured her that he was. As soon as he arrived, all was right in the world. Don't get me wrong, Morgan was delighted to see all of her friends that night, but Tyler truly was the bees knees. As I was getting ready to post these pictures, I noticed Morgan had slyly slipped her arm around him just as I asked everyone to smile. Well played little lady, well played. 

The night was a win, complete with 2 hours of hot and sweaty kids and a shockingly minimal amount of tears.

 As the festivities wound down, the kids ate pizza and Morgan took some time to open gifts. Her friends were very kind and generous, filling Morgan's birthday with things she loved.

And then she opened Tyler's gift. You can't tell from the photo, but it's a Nerf bow and arrow. Its official name is the "Heart Breaker Bow" - a little too accurate if you ask me. After all, that's how all fairy tales start in Idaho. Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy. Boy buys girl a weapon. Boy and girl live happily ever after. These kids are off to a solid start.

For the record: In subsequent conversations, Morgan has assured me that she and Tyler are "just friends." Which I would believe, except for the minor detail that she keeps telling me how cute she thinks he is. Puppy love is just so complicated.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Keep it Simple

One of my dearest cousins had her first baby last month. They named her Clementine. She is sweet and beautiful and still tiny enough that I could have just tucked her in my purse when I went to meet her for the first time. Alas, I value my relationships with my family and couldn't come up with a valid reason to have Morgan start visiting me in prison.

Prior to Clementine's arrival, I had the pleasure of helping with her baby shower. My cousin might be the cutest little pregnant lady ever. No, really.

The weather was perfect, the mood was enthused. Everyone was delighted to celebrate Clementine's upcoming arrival. There were gifts and games, and more food than twenty women could have possibly devoured. Not that we didn't make a good faith effort. Those sandwiches weren't going to eat themselves.

The shower was complete with a craft station, where people could decorate onesies for the baby. Several of them were covered in hand drawn art, a number of them had ruffles hot glued across the butt, and not a single one of them was something my cousin was ever going to put on her baby girl. Let's just say my family may be lacking a bit in the artistic skills department.

One of the most precious ideas at the shower was called a "Blessing Bowl" -- shower attendees took a few minutes to write words of support and love to the soon-to-be new parents. I wrote a short note to my cousin and her husband, reminding them that being each other's best friends was the best gift they could ever give their daughter. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Morgan hunched over the table. She was intensely writing her own note, guarding her sheet of paper so that no one could catch a glimpse. When she finished, she quickly handed it to me, demanding that I tuck it away immediately. I did, but not before I made myself privy to her little words of wisdom for the new mom. 
"Watch out for poop, Chelsea. From: Morgan"
No truer words were ever written. Congratulations, Chelsea and Patrick. And may you heed my daughter's advise for years to come. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Little Fish, Big Pond

I have always loved the ocean. As a child born and raised in a land-locked state, the ocean was something grand and unattainable, full of mystery and magic. Stories of mermaids filled my childhood and I often longed to be a dolphin. To be fair, I was 12 and I also longed to marry Tom Cruise. 

Right after Morgan turned one, we took Morgan to the Atlantic ocean for the first time. We were in New Jersey for the wedding of David's brother and I set her on the warm sand. I was prepared for this Kodak moment, snapping photo after photo as she toddled across the beach. Unfortunately, of the nearly 30 (yes 30) pictures I took, she refused to look at me. I called her name, I made loud noises, I offered to buy her a pony. Nothing. Instead, I now have over two dozen photos of her eating some bacteria-covered clam shell while her diaper filled with sand.

At one point, someone offered to take our family picture. Although Morgan was just one, I wanted to have that memory of our time on the beach, the memento that would capture perfectly that chapter in our lives. And now we do. One exasperated mother and one angry toddler who could have given a shit about the magic and mystery of the ocean.

Fast forward 5 years. We spent some time on the Oregon coast this summer, and I was eager to have another opportunity to share with Morgan something I loved so much. I am a much wiser mother now, and knew not to put much pressure on Morgan. For all of her wild ways, there is a part of Morgan that is very reserved. New experiences often overwhelm her; she needs time to assess her environment before she jumps in. Pushing too hard makes her push back, something I have learned the hard way over years of "encouragement."

As we made our way to the water, I watched her. Her steps slowed, her lips forming a small "o" as she struggled to comprehend the vastness before her. She stayed back, unwilling to get too close to the water's edge. After a few moments, she stepped closer, squealing as the waves began to wash over her toes. Within minutes, she was out as far as I was comfortable with, begging me to let her swim in her clothes. She was now as in love with the ocean as I had always been, and I was now petrified she was going to be swept out to sea.

We left after much protest, her clothes wet and sandy, her words breathless.

"Mom, I was fearless!!!"

"No, baby girl, you weren't. You were very afraid when we got here."

"But Mom, I still got in the ocean, and I did it by myself!!!"

"I know you did, and that makes you very brave."

"But how is that different than fearless?"

"Because being brave means doing something even when you are scared or afraid. And that is so much more important than being fearless."

Always be brave, my baby girl. And try to keep the sand out of your underwear next time.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

No Good Deed

The call came on a Friday night, from a number I didn't recognize. "Can you take them?" she asked, desperation seeping through her words. "It's just for the weekend, we hope. We're looking for their sister."

We've been working with Health and Welfare for three years, no one has ever called, no one has ever asked for our help. And now they needed us. But still, I hesitated. It had been a long week, and we were tired. I wanted to clean the house, work on our bathroom remodel, relax, be a family. It was that word - "family" - that gave me pause. How easily I was taking that word for granted, how quickly I was dismissing the needs of two small children whose own family had just failed them. How much I was regretting answering the phone.

And so we said yes. Morgan and I went to pick them up, prepared with nothing.

"Do you think they like gum? Maybe I can give them some gum. They might like that, right?" 

"I don't know, I have no idea what these little guys might like. But you can ask them."

Their caseworker brought them in. Their eyes scanned the floor, briefly sweeping across my feet. They looked at each other and then back to her, their tiny frames sharing one small edge of the doorway. She gently nudged them, encouraging them to cross the threshold. They edged in, slowly turning to meet my gaze. I smiled, awkwardly and expectantly, trying to mask the sense of panic that was welling within me. Morgan extended her hand, two pieces of gum clutched in her own sweaty palm. They both shook their heads, not ready to make this new connection. Morgan turned and looked at me; I nodded reassuringly. She was trying so hard.

I gathered up the few belongings they had and we made our way to the parking lot. The details shared were minimal: no food allergies, no bed wetting. Oh, and the youngest one had head lice. But it was being treated.

"Who's nervous?" I asked as we drove to our house. I raised my hand high. Theirs quickly followed. Finally, we had something in common.

David had made them beds on the floor, a pot of pasta was waiting for us when we arrived. We ate in near silence. I asked questions, they answered with nods or subtle shakes of their heads. It was going to be a long weekend.

I soon discovered they both had lice. And it was not being treated. The lice was so bad I could see the bugs crawling on their scalps when I parted their hair. We treated them until midnight that night, tediously combing through each strand. Morgan had been sitting next to them all evening.

The next morning, I spotted it. A tiny dot at the base of her hair. I wasn't sure if Morgan now had it, but I wasn't taking any chances. She wasn't going to the birthday party that afternoon.  I watched her little shoulders, shuddering sobs as I broke the news to her. "Sweetheart, it would be irresponsible. They will understand. We will do something special with them another time, I promise." But Morgan didn't understand. She looked at me pleadingly, begging me to change my mind. But I couldn't, and I didn't, and I broke her heart. And it made me question all of our choices.

Helping another family wasn't supposed to be at the expense of my own. But it was, and I couldn't fix it. Rationally, I knew that the loss of a birthday party paled in comparison to the loss of safety and security that brought these children to our home. I tried to convince myself that Morgan would one day appreciate this tiny sacrifice and look back on this weekend as a time we helped someone in need. But now, when it mattered the most in her little five year-old world, she was devastated, and I had caused it.

Despite her heartbreak, Morgan was gracious that weekend, sharing her space and her toys with two little people who literally had nothing but the clothes on their back. Over the course of the next three days, friendships were created, tough outer shells were cracked, and bonds were formed. And then they left.

The call came Monday morning. Their sister had been located and would pick them up that night.

"Do you think we will ever see them again?"

"I don't know. I hope not. If we see them again, that means their family is still broken. And our job was to help for just a little while until they could go home."

"Does this mean their family is fixed?"

"I don't know, baby girl. But I think they're working on it."

They left almost a month ago. David and I have still not talked about it. Health and Welfare has called us for two more placements. I declined both times.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day Fail

From the time someone first asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my mom encouraged me to become a teacher. "You will have summers off," she said. "You can stay home with your kids," she advised. My first semester in college, I declared myself an English major, confident my love of language would spill forward into the young minds I would eventually shape. But alas, those initial ambitions were short lived, quickly replaced by a 3-credit bowling class and the ever-challenging Math in the Modern World.  As it became clear I would never actually be a teacher, I did the next best thing. I married one.

Over the last ten years, David has enjoyed hard-earned and much-deserved summer vacations. For those of you who begrudge teachers their schedule, I challenge you to spend a month, week, or even a day in a classroom. I guarantee you will be both awestruck and exhausted. That shit is hard.

During his down time, David generally immerses himself with projects around the house and taking Morgan on little adventures. I am infinitely grateful for both of these things. However, the one thing David avoids at all costs is cleaning the house. I often come home to piles of dirty laundry, stacks of dirty dishes, and half-finished craft projects strewn about the house. Despite my begging pleading bitching gentle nudging, David has had no interest in running these parts of our home. He simply says, "Amy, I am just a terrible house husband. Really, I am." A total cop out, but he does manage to keep our daughter alive.

As this has been a running joke for much of our marriage, I thought I would poke a little fun at David's lack of house keeping skills in his Father's Day card this year. I carefully crafted my words, balancing my subtle jab against my gushing praise for him as a father. Except I failed to write one key word:

For the record, I meant HOUSE husband. David, you are not much of a HOUSE husband. But you are my best friend and one hell of a father. We are so lucky to have you...dirty dishes and all.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pecking Order

Now that Morgan is in school full time, I have had to be a little more selective about the number and types of projects I decide to keep in her scrapbook. In addition to the standard construction paper and pasta projects, Morgan has reading, science, and math examples for me to sort out. When I opened her backpack on Friday, I was delighted to see what I thought might serve as her overall Kindergarten keepsake piece...the stick figure family portrait.

What first caught my eye was Morgan's little attempt at cursive. I remember spending hours and hours writing my name, swirling my letters across the page in long, dramatic strokes.  What I loved even more was that Morgan is trying to learn cursive on her own...half the kids in her class are still trying to make sure they can write in a straight line.

But what I REALLY loved is what I read on the rest of the page. The phrase "tallest to shortest" has a particular meaning in our house. For those of you who don't know, David and I met online. This meant  filling out lots of online profiles that made us both appear to be more attractive and more interesting than we are in real life. Rather than consider them outright lies, David likes to refer to some of his embellishments as part of his overall sales pitch to get me to have dinner with him. One of the biggest overstatements in his profile was his height. David Lorenzo is not now, nor has he ever been, 5'9" - never.

And now our lovely daughter has captured the truth for all time and eternity. According to this picture, I've got David beat by at least two feet...and I'm only 5'7" -

Thank you, Morgan. For keeping your dad humble and for giving your mom yet one more reason to throw out "I told you so."  

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Her brows were furrowed, thoughtful and reflective as she quietly ate her sandwich. It was just the two of us yesterday, as David is away this weekend.

"Mom, I think I'm changing."

"Changing, changing how?" I watched her face intently, unsure of where her words were headed.

"I think I am becoming a different person."

"How can you become a different person?"

"Well, I have been making a lot of good choices these days, and you make good choices, so I think that means I am changing. I am just growing up a lot, Mom."

As she spoke, I watched her relax into her chair. The apples of her cheeks were flush, a slight smile turning up the corners of her mouth. She was both proud and relieved at her observation.

We finished our lunch in silence, occasionally sharing the knowing glance of two people carrying the same secret.  She is indeed changing, and we both know it. It's just that only one of us was brave enough to say it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


We now go to church. Almost every Sunday. For those of you who already go, we are glad to be members of your club. For those of you who don't, no worries - I am sure the novelty will wear off eventually.

In the mean time, Morgan has been attending Sunday school. Shockingly enough, they talk about God and Jesus. During Lent, these conversations have focused on Easter and its meaning. Last Sunday, the theme of class was miracles. Morgan was clearly struggling with this concept as we rode home.

"Mom, what is a miracle?"

"Well, it's when something good happens."

"Like how good?"

"Really good. Miracles are when something really good happens and you can't explain why."

"Oh, I get it!"

"You do?"

"Oh yeah!  Like if I decide to ride the Ferris wheel at the fair this summer.  That'll be a MIRACLE!!"

Yes, exactly like that. Because the fair and the Resurrection are practically the same.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Full Circle

When I was growing up, we had just a living room and a kitchen, no dining room and certainly no formal living room. Our living room was just that, lived in. It housed our only TV and was often where we gathered for birthday parties and special occasions. Every family picture I have features me and my siblings standing in front of our fireplace, a can of Diet Coke hiding in the shadows on the nearest coffee table, my dad's tennis shoes tucked in the corner by the front door. I forever pined for a formal living room, a room that would always be clean, free from newspapers and coffee cups, ready for the parade of guests I was sure I would host one day. 

When David and I bought our house eight years ago, my wish finally came true. We indeed have a formal living room, the one room that is always clean and houses the one piece of new furniture I have ever purchased. Little did I know, the "parade of guests"  I would eventually host would be a bunch of  five year-old girls having a dance party in that very room, turning my lovely couch into a fort, a boat, and finally, a trampoline. 

It started innocently enough. Music was blaring, the girls were having a contest to see who could get their skirt to twirl the biggest. 
The girls we had over were precious. Morgan refers to each of them as her "bestest friends" and was so excited for them to meet. They both posed for the camera, while my daughter spent her time looking as feral as possible. Clearly, she succeeded.
It was a matter of minutes before they needed to catch their breathes, collapsing on the couch in a fit of giggles.

And, as is the case with all good parenting stories, "I turned my back for just a minute." - When I walked backed into living room, construction was well under way.

For the next thirty minutes, I watched as they worked together, their little creative wheels turning as they created and then destroyed every configuration they could muster with six cushions. Not surprisingly, the possibilities were endless.

And there it was. My formal living room. Lived in,wrinkled and worn, marked by greasy little finger prints and now full of one Saturday's memories. Just right.