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Before I lived in one, I always thought that neighborhoods with Homeowner’s Associations were better than those without. I imagined manicured lawns and pride of ownership and major curb appeal—all great things when it comes to resale value. I’m here to tell you that I was wrong. Now that I own a home and am subject to CC&R’s, I get to see the good, the bad and the oh so very ugly.
By now, most school-age children have returned to the classroom. I know that there exists an entire population of parents who rejoice when the back to school bell sounds for the first time. I, however, am not among them. For our family, the school year signifies a return to busy weeknights filled with sports practice or clubs or extracurricular activities. It means that dinner is rushed so as to squeeze in time for homework. The return to school also means that we have to get up early and zip through the morning routine of teeth brushing and dressing and eating breakfast. My biggest complaint about the school year, though? Making lunches. The daily drone of packing the lunchbox exhausts my creativity. Still, I persevere because I’ve witnessed what they serve in the cafeteria lunch line and I’m here to tell you that tater totz and chk’n nuggets do not a healthy meal make. No sir. If you, too, have already fallen into a lunch packing rut, here are some suggestions on healthy (and relatively easy) items to pack in your child’s lunch.
I caught a snippet of The Today Show this morning. I gave up watching that show years ago but it did pop up on my screen this morning briefly as I was starting my workout DVD. The hosts (who I didn’t recognize) were discussing something they referred to as “skinny shaming”. From what I gathered, it was in reference to a GAP ad in which a very gaunt model is depicted in a plaid dress. Apparently the Twitterverse responded adversely to the photo, making disparaging comments about the model’s physique. She is too skinny, apparently.
Vacation season might be wrapping up as children everywhere prepare to head back to school soon. The lucky ones among us, though, might be able to squeeze in one more quick trip. For some, that means air travel. Having completed my fair share of that already this summer, I wanted to share a list of five things you should never do on an airplane. Many of these things seem like common sense, but so does not ironing in your sleep and yet they still have that warning on the box. I am not kidding when I tell you that I’ve witnessed each and every one of these actions taking place on a flight. And so I’m doing what any writer would do and voicing my frustrations in writing for all the world (or my captive Southern Arizona audience, at least) to read. It might be a passive aggressive act, but some things just need to be addressed, don’t you agree?
We started reading to my son when he was six weeks old. It sounds a little strange, I know, but I’d read about the benefits of reading to a baby and so I insisted that we do it. We started with simple board books that contained mostly colorful pictures of oversized objects—shoes, balls, animals—and slowly progressed to books with simple story lines. Our reading time quickly became a treasured part of my son’s daily schedule. After we successfully got his sisters off to school each morning, the two of us would cozy into a spot on the rocking chair in his room. He’d choose a pile of books from our home library and stack them as neatly as his chubby little toddler hands would allow, by the chair. Eventually his attention span grew and we were able to complete lengthy series. I think that he was under five years old when we completed all seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.
At the risk of sounding like my grandfather, I have to say that I have genuine concerns about the next generation. I’m worried about the impact of constant connectivity on impressionable young minds.
A month ago, a tattered box arrived at my door. Tattered because it had traveled a great distance—all the way from Italy. It was a package I’ve been waiting a very long time for. That box contained seven copies of my first published novel. The only trouble, of course, being that the book is printed in Italian and—well—I can’t read it. Still, the arrival of those seven books caused quite a stir in my house. There were many squeals and photos and toasts raised as one would expect. What I didn’t know to expect, though, was the response I’d receive from Italian readers.
Summer has officially begun. The calendar might not say so, but I know it’s true because not two days after school let out my seven-year-old son came to me and uttered those three dreaded words: “Mom, I’m bored.” My threat of additional chores to resolve the boredom was only a temporary fix; I also devised a summer bucket list. Our summer bucket list suggests 50 things to do before school resumes. I thought I’d share it here for those of you who are looking for ways to avoid hearing those same three words uttered by your own child(ren). Good luck!
Have you seen the TV show, American Dream Builders? It’s an NBC program in which several designers are assigned to a team and they compete against one another to design a house that wins the votes of a neighborhood council. I’m not sure what the big prize at the end is and I didn’t bother to look it up because the prize is not my point. I only mention the show because I want to tell you about something the host, Nate Berkus, said on an episode I watched the other night. Two things, actually. The first phrase came to pass when he walked into a newly-designed bedroom painted a drab gray color. He looked around and then said on camera to his colleagues, “This room literally bores me to tears.” Only he was wrong because, as I mentioned, he was being filmed and I can assuredly say that not a single tear rolled down his face as he spoke those words. By definition, the word ‘literally’ means to convey an actual, exact occurrence or sentiment.
This afternoon I’m getting on a plane with my daughter, Torri. We’re flying to Florida, the Sunshine State, so you’d think the trip would be a happy one. It is, in many ways. But the fact that Torri’s ticket is one-way, and mine is round-trip, well, that complicates things.
A little neighbor girl rang the doorbell this evening. Our doorbell rarely rings and so when it did, we assumed it was either UPS or our son, having difficulty manipulating our stubborn front doorknob again. Rather, we opened the door to find the little neighbor girl standing there. She very politely asked if our daughter, Cassidy, could come out to play.
My family doesn’t do the ham thing on Easter. Rather, we have a long-standing tradition of holding a backyard barbecue every Easter. This year was no different. After sufficiently stuffing ourselves with deviled eggs and jellybeans, my family was sitting around the patio table in the backyard as my husband manned the grill. I should tell you that our house is very rural. We live on an acre out in the desert. Just over the wall from our landscaped backyard, there exists every species of cacti, reptile and desert animal you’ve ever come across. Back to my story though. So there we were, sitting around the patio table when we heard the most disturbing screechy, squeaky sound I’ve ever heard. Those of us tall enough to peer over the wall ran to it and, well, peered over. And that, my friends, is when we saw a really long, really yucky snake. (Is there any other kind?) This particular one was a coachwhip, which I’m assured are not venomous.
I have a daughter who says all the wrong things. Just last week, for example, she tweeted a confession to her followers: “We are a family that likes to put holes in our walls.” It’s an odd declaration, right? One that makes you wonder just what the heck is going on behind our closed doors. The truth is not nearly as mysterious as the tweet would imply. The truth is that we are in the middle of remodeling two bathrooms and the updates have necessitated the cutting of holes in the wall. We also removed the vent covers from the ceiling for painting and those, too, my daughter counts as holes. And then there was the unfortunate incident of my husband becoming entangled in an extra-long shower curtain as he tried to hang the rod. He fell to the ground in a swirl of waterproof fabric and expletives and—on his way down—his knee (or other body part, it’s hard to say) went through the drywall in the bathroom.
I’ve come to the conclusion that parenting itself is not hard. Within the sturdy walls of home, I am more than capable of raising my children to be well-balanced, God-fearing, productive adults. The trouble comes in that we don’t exist solely within the bounds of home. In my experience, some of the most difficult parenting challenges have come about as a direct result of the influence other mothers have on my kids. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this: “But ________’s mom lets her see ‘R’-rated movies.” Or, “______’s mom gave her a midnight curfew. Why do I have to be home at 10 p.m.?”
There was a lawsuit making the national headlines through much of March. In involved a teenager from New Jersey who was suing her parents for—among other things—access to a college fund. The litigious young lady was one Rachel Canning, 18. As it turns out, young Miss Canning eventually dropped the case voluntarily, and has since returned home. I suppose that is a tidy end to the court case, but I can’t help but pick my jaw up off the floor when I read related news stories.
My daughter is going to prom this weekend. She has everything she needs: a dress, heels and a hair appointment. She is going with is a young man I very much approve of; the two of them have been dating for over six months (which is an eternity in high school time). The other day she mentioned something about driving to his house before prom and—without even a pause—she went right on with whatever it was she was saying. I can’t tell you what that was because I lost focus on that part when she mentioned driving herself over to the young man’s house.
I have a 7-year-old son. My 7-year-old son seems to have an endless supply of energy bound up somewhere in his core. A couple of years ago, my husband and I learned that if we didn’t want to spend significant time dodging Nerf darts and maneuvering through jury-rigged obstacle courses in the comfort of our own living room, it was in our best interest to find active outlets for our son. These days, I spend a lot of time on one ball field or another, snapping photos or cheering from the sidelines. I’m a solo sideline sitter; my husband has always played an active role, helping out where the coach needs it.
As a stay-home mom, my job title is sort of like an umbrella that covers several duties. I’m a chauffeur, a chef, a tutor and a nurse. An accountant. A personal shopper. Secretary. When you throw together a few duties from each of those titles, you begin to get an accurate representation of life as I know it. Often times, though, I feel as though the title ‘maid’ most accurately describes the majority of my job. Especially this time of year, when I’m busy spring cleaning. Maybe I just have dust bunnies on my mind, but today I thought I’d share a checklist for those of you who, like me, are busy polishing and shining everything in your house. It can be difficult to remember to tidy every seldom-used nook and cranny, after all, but this checklist should help you get your place cleaned up for spring in a hurry.
My 19-year-old daughter crashed her car two weeks ago. And when I say that she “crashed her car,” I do not mean to say that she got into a fender bender. I mean to say that she crashed her car to the extent that airbags deployed on impact. I mean to say that her windshield shattered and the front end of her little Honda Civic looked very much like the peeled back tin top of a Pringles can. I mean to say that the paramedics on the scene told her—in no uncertain terms—that the seatbelt she was wearing most certainly saved her life. It was that kind of car crash. Remarkably, she walked away with just a few scratches.
I don’t know about yours, but my Facebook news feed was abuzz with SB1062 (or, what has been dubbed Arizona’s legalized prejudice bill) news this week. Locals and out-of-state friends alike weighed in with opinions on the highly controversial bill, some with insightful commentary and others with unfounded rants either in favor or opposition of. The topic saturated news and social media channels on both a local and national level. Which is why I wasn’t the least bit surprised when two of my teenage daughters brought up the topic for conversation at home.
How about this weather we’re having lately? Not too shabby, right? It’s only February and already the tiniest green buds are appearing on my trees in the backyard. And I’ve had to dig out shorts for my kids to wear to school. These brag-worthy temperatures have even enabled us to shut down both the heater and AC in favor of open windows and fresh air. It’s official: I have spring fever. While I’m absolutely enjoying the warm, sunny days, spring fever also has a bit of a drawback—at least for me. I tend to get in a bit of a mom rut this time of the school year. It’s possible that I look more forward to summer break than my kids do. It’s a vacation for me, too, after all. Summer break means alarm-free mornings and laidback afternoons at the park or the pool. It means not having to help with homework. The very best part, though? Summer break means that I don’t have to come with any more nutritious and delicious (not to mention visually appealing) packed lunches!
I had a dental cleaning appointment this morning. I considered calling in sick and putting the torture off until next week but in the end I worked up my courage and went in as scheduled. I have dental anxiety stemming from several bad root canal experiences. Every time I find myself lying supine in that chair my heart rate increases. And then the hygienist comes in and seems to mock me in the way she suits up. First she strings that mask across her face—I presume to hide the snide smile that will creep across her lips as she slowly tortures me. And then—one by one—she pulls the latex gloves on and lets them snap to spite me. I stiffen in response. The worst part is when she emerges with her tray full of sharp and shiny death tools. Oh sure, they look harmless enough beneath that flimsy sterilization sheet. But in the right hands, even that insignificant little string of floss can be wielded like a miniature machete and slice right through the tender, fleshy gum right there between my two front teeth. Believe me, I know.
I recently took part in an experiment in which I committed to eat only seven foods for seven days. There were no rules as to which seven foods I could choose from, nor were there any armed guards in my kitchen or alarms on my refrigerator to keep me honest. I could have cried uncle at any time and buried my face in a chocolate cream pie—nobody would have sued me.
I was sitting at my laptop, writing a blog post when my 19-year-old daughter spoke up from the next room. “Justin Bieber got arrested,” she said.
I’m about to confess something that might lead you to question my scruples. I realize that doing so might not seem like the best course of action but in this case it can’t be avoided. Here goes: I’ve watched MTV’s show, Catfish. But wait; don’t immediately write me off as a wiggly-brained ninny. I watched the show after reading an article in which a therapist suggested that it might be a good program for teenagers to watch. According to the article, the show’s content appeals to teens but also can be an effective way to open their eyes to the dangers of dispensing personal information online. As the mother to three teen girls, I thought it reasonable to at least screen the show and find out for myself whether it would be a worthwhile (and appropriate) program for my kids. So I watched. That was my first mistake.
Last January, I made a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish before the clock struck twelve on Dec. 31. I haven’t actually done the math, but I’m guessing that my success rate hovers somewhere between 70 and 80 percent. Not bad, but for a perfectionist like me, when I see those numbers all I really see is the 20 or 30 percent failure rate. I can’t help but want to do it differently this year so that I have a better chance of success.
On New Year’s Day my husband and I went to the movies. As is the case with most any holiday, the theater was packed. We stepped foot into the auditorium a full 40 minutes prior to show time, but still the middle and aisle seats were all accounted for. It was a holiday; the crowds were to be expected. Which, I might add, is why my husband and I made sure to arrive early. Carefully, we chose from the remaining seats. We don’t go to the movies terribly frequently, but we’ve been often enough to know that the dark blue seats are the ones that recline. We chose those. So, too, did we very purposefully avoid sitting directly adjacent to two heavily-perfumed women in the row because the smell of heavy perfume tends to render both my husband and me nauseous. We chose seats that were between the heavily-perfumed women and a family with young children. A family with young children who were apparently recovering from a cold, I might add. As the commercials rolled, we listened as the adjacent children coughed and hacked and practically hawked up a lung. Being slightly germaphobic, we considered moving, but chose not to, based on the fact that indeed we had insulated ourselves with a buffer zone of empty seats on either side.
Is it just me, or is your Christmas card haul dwindling this year, too? During any given year, my family will typically bring in enough Christmas cards to warrant a display. We’ve been known to frame doorways with them, or hang them from shiny ribbons on the kitchen cabinets. This year is different; either the mail carrier is holding out on us or our friends have removed us from the annual Christmas card list. It’s not all in my head either.
With Christmas less just around the corner, this is about the time of year that shopping gets frenzied as gift givers everywhere go into spending overdrive. It seems there is always just one last gift to buy, or one last person to buy for. All that gift giving can be hazardous to one’s wallet, especially when your list includes large families. I learned long ago that in those situations, it’s wise to give a gift that whole family can enjoy together, rather than purchase individual presents for each family member. With that in mind, I’m sharing some of my go-to gift ideas for whole family giving. Even better news? All of these items are readily available for last minute shoppers.
It’s official: the elf is back. Yes, ours is one of those households tormented by the infamous elf on the shelf. For those of you who don’t know the premise, the elf on the shelf is a cute little stuffed elf who is reported to spy for Santa, keeping a close eye on who is naughty and who is nice. Ours happens to be a household in which Santa is known to be a fictional character, but still we enjoy the whimsy our elf, Doogan, brings to the household each year. More than just a jolly decoration that sits stagnant on the shelf, Doogan is known to move to a different spot overnight. The kids have fun seeking out his new hiding place each morning.
Every time my grandpa comes to visit, the conversation invariably leads to one particular topic: America’s moral decline. I cannot tell you how many times and in how many different ways I’ve heard his viewpoints on the subject. I have learned to recognize the cue. He’ll shake his head or roll his eyes in exasperation and then he starts in, “Back in my day...” I know to settle in for a comparison of what was acceptable in his younger years versus what passes as status quo in modern times. His memories are romanticized—a look back at yesteryear through the rosiest of lenses.
Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. Oh sure, some of you have it all under control. Your turkeys are ordered and your centerpieces are made and you’ve already begun testing pumpkin pie recipes to find just the right one. Bravo for you. What? Do I sound bitter? Maybe I am. My hostility has nothing to do with your perfectly-organized holiday. I wish you well, in fact. My hostility is the result of certain impending doom. Okay, maybe that was a little harsh. It’s just that I am expecting house guests this year and I’ve been so distracted by the logistics of pulling off a peaceful holiday that I can’t seem to even think about what might be on the menu.
I read a blog post earlier this week in which the author suggested sixteen things kids should decide for themselves. The first thing he named was religion. His point was very succinct; basically he stated that parents should take their children to church (synagogue, temple, etc) in the early years and then let the child decide beyond that whether or not he or she would like to pursue that religion. As a churchgoing mother of four, I most vehemently disagree. My oldest daughter is nineteen and was raised going to church and Sunday school regularly. In high school, she also participated in youth group. Her participation was mandatory and nonnegotiable. The same is true and will continue to be true for her three younger siblings.
Before moving to the desert nine years ago, my family and I lived in Colorado for a short time. Prior to that, we lived on California’s central coast and so the prospect of Colorado’s snowy winters was a novel one. Unfortunately, the icy winters I looked forward to came to be well ahead of schedule. You can imagine how a girl born and raised in California was taken quite by surprise when snowflakes began falling in October. Those snowflakes pretty much kept falling through mid-May. By then the novelty of it all had given way to frustration with the bitter cold, the constant sludgy mess and the inability to drive without sliding all over the road. Had we stayed longer, I may have gotten used to mountain life. Stranger things have happened.
Awaiting the birth of my first child was an exciting time. I definitely could have done without the morning sickness and lingering fatigue, but the anticipation of her impending arrival had me giddy. I couldn’t wait to see what traits I might recognize in her. Of course, part of the preparation was in choosing a name. I was brought up in a generation crowded with Jennifers and Sarahs and Nicoles. As a Darcie, I most definitely stood out. I didn’t necessarily appreciate the uniqueness of my name when I was young, but by the time I was pregnant with my own little girl, I indeed wanted to give her a moniker that would prevent her from having to use her last initial in the classroom as a differentiator.
I heard an interesting question posed on the radio last week. The DJ asked, “Would you rather live an even-keeled life in which you were perfectly content 100% of the time, or more of a roller coaster life in which you experienced both euphoric highs and heartbreaking lows.” I didn’t call in with an answer of my own, but I’m pretty sure I know which end of the spectrum I’m on.
I read an article the other day about how we, as parents, tend to sell our kids short in regard to the household chores they are perfectly capable of completing, even from a very young age. The piece I read suggested that a child as young as six could cook scrambled eggs. Or that an eight-year-old could wash the family car. I totally agree. A six-year-old could scramble a few eggs and an eight-year-old could wash a car. Of course, that six-year-old might burn the house to the ground in the process and the eight-year-old may very well leave the front windshield so stained with hard water spots that you can’t see through it to save your life. But, eh, who am I to split hairs.
I had a brief scare earlier this week when a Pima County Sheriff officer rang my doorbell in the wee hours of the morning. My husband was out for his run and I was busy with the rush of a school day schedule, trying to get the kids fed and clothed and out the door. To preface, I have to tell you a little bit about where we live. You know how people sometimes sarcastically say that they live in the sticks? Well, we actually do. The only difference being that the sticks I see scattered around our house are fallen ocotillo branches left to dry out in the heat of the desert sun. With that scene in your head, I can now tell you that my husband’s runs typically lead him along dusty desert roads, abandoned by all but the occasional coyote, tumbleweed or rattlesnake. Don’t get me wrong. We have company out here in the sticks. We live in a neighborhood that even has paved roads, but beyond the confines of our gated community, there’s very little civilization to speak of for miles. We’re so isolated out here, in fact, that last spring we had a mountain lion take up temporary residence somewhere nearby and spend its early morning hours strolling along in the desert acreage between houses. I tell you all of that to convey to you that when my husband goes out running, it’s a bit different than doing laps around a track.
My dad is turning sixty this year. He wears it well. Whenever he comes to visit, he gives my six-year-old son a run for his money in their running races. Dad still wins. To be fair, though, I should note that he cheats. “Look at that,” he says, pointing to a passing car or a blue-bellied lizard or a rock, if all else fails. And my son? He falls for it every time. The second he turns his head my dad is off like a flash of lightning—gone long before my son has the chance to shout an exasperated, “hey!”
I’m teaching my daughter to drive. Again. And no, it’s not a remedial driving course because the first lessons didn’t take. Rather, we’re starting all over with a second daughter—my newly-permitted driver. She just got her permit this week and I’ve allowed her to take the driver’s seat twice, which equates to about two times too many.
My kids go back to school next week. And yes, I do realize that the calendar shows it is but mid-July. I am always reminded how unusual our school start date is when I proudly post back-to-school pictures on my Facebook news feed only to be replied to with comments that perhaps not-so-subtly question my sanity. I would dispute that it is not my sanity that is in question, but that of the school district’s powers that be.
If you’re a foodie and you just so happen to be looking for something to do this weekend, you’re in luck. Two local events are sure to tempt your taste buds.
I am about to write an article that will likely alienate approximately 50% of you. It is with that understanding in place that I have decided to write it anyway because a) even the alienated ones might find it somewhat entertaining and b) I’ve never been one to shy away from the truth in the name of diplomacy.
My eighteen-year-old daughter and I just returned from an epic European vacation. The trip—officially—was a graduation gift, though I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to it being a bit of an excuse to spend some one-on-one time with her as she tiptoes into adulthood. Having spent a year planning the details of our vacation, we had high hopes. I think both of us naively imagined flawless travel followed by warm summer evenings spent strolling the streets of Paris. In reality, most of the things that could go wrong, did.
I have a pet peeve. Who am I kidding? I have many of them, actually, but today I’m focusing on just the one. It pertains to my children. Here’s the scoop: I’m really fed up with people offering food to my children (pun totally intended). It happens all of the time. At church, for example. My children attend Sunday School while my husband and I are in the congregation at church. The service—and subsequently, Sunday School lessons—last an hour. One hour. The 10:30 a.m hour, at that. On any given Sunday, my family will typically enjoy a fairly hearty weekend treat of a breakfast. Waffles or pancakes or biscuits and eggs. By the time we drop the kids off in their respective Sunday School classrooms, scarcely an hour has passed since my family sat down for breakfast. Yet, when we pick them up from Sunday School, we hear reports of snacks that were given out. And I’m not talking about something healthy like a handful of grapes or a segment of orange. I’m talking about powdered donuts or cookies or packaged cereal bars—food imposters laden with sugar and preservatives.
This time of year gets to me. When the mercury climbs and the sun won’t relent, my mind goes back. It was on a midsummer day nearly four years ago that my then two-year-old son nearly drowned. I took my four children to a friend’s house to spend an afternoon cooling off in their pool. My friend and I sat in the shallow end of her pool keeping watch as our combined six children splashed and swam the day away. My two-year-old stayed at my side on the pool’s lagoon, spraying the other kids with a stream from a water gun he’d taken a liking to.
My eighteen-year-old daughter’s beloved first car broke down on the side of I-10 about a month ago. In order to buy that little green Volkswagen Beetle in the first place, she’d saved for well over a year, stashing away every penny she earned from her part-time job, as well as cash birthday and Christmas gifts. So when the temperature gauge somersaulted and grey smoke poured from the exhaust pipe that day, my daughter’s dream car quite literally went up in smoke. And, unfortunately, there were no affordable options to get it back up and running. There was a grieving process to be sure, but perhaps the heaviest burden fell on the shoulders of my husband. Used car shopping, you see, is like the kryptonite to his Superman.
When our neighbors listed their house for sale a few months ago my husband and I were admittedly a bit saddened. Not that we knew them well. We did, however, appreciate the constant presence of a Sheriff’s patrol car parked quite visibly in their driveway. I mean, in spite of the alarm company’s sign in our yard, both my husband and I feel that you never can have too much insurance. The presence (and constant threat of) law enforcement was certainly a neighborly perk.
I was sixteen when I stood at a podium before my graduating class. With a tassel dangling in my peripheral vision, I delivered a speech on dreams and the audacity to pursue them. Audacious because beneath my graduation gown was a belly bulging, ripe with a life on the verge of beginning. Ironic because some might say that by choosing to grow that life when I was but a baby myself, I was bringing my own life to a screeching halt. I suppose that I was, in some ways. But mostly, I was beginning a whole new chapter.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m sharing a rather humorous conversation that I recently had with a long-distance friend via text (with her permission). I hope you find it as entertaining as I do. While the names have been changed to protect anonymity, the story is completely true.