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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.