Stop, Whisper, Play

Dinner’s just begun and already there’s big trouble. Grumpy faces, slouching backs. Elbows on the table, spilled parmesan and blueberries. I’m a broken record of “please sit down” and “eat your vegetables,” tired of listening to myself. And dinner’s not half over.

Every parent knows this scene, this vibe, of tempers flared and days unraveling. By evening, we count up our infractions, our impatience and mistakes, regrets played out like a barbed-wire rosary.

Tomorrow, we’ll do better.

But the next day starts with grumbles, spilled orange juice and chores undone. My kids wait until I’m in the shower before they start to fight. Covered with shampoo, I’m a rotten referree. The screaming escalates. Here we go again. Continue reading

Are you caught inside the “‘Busy’ Trap”?

“Watches, Watches, Watches,” by Jiri Hodan

This weekend — on the same day we returned from our vacation in Maine — author Tim Kreider published an article called “The ‘Busy’ Trap” in the New York Times. I read it as I mourned the loss of the sea and tides, the peaceful ebb and flow of our vacation. It didn’t take me long to be caught back up in schedules. In Kreider’s description of our culture of busyness, I saw my own reflection — an often-frenetic mom, wondering where the day has gone and if there’s something I can do about it.

In a style both lighthearted and incisive, Kreider argues that we are busy — crazy, frantic, mournfully busy — because we choose to be. Everybody’s doing it — rushing, multi-tasking, piling hours into stacks — and so we march along.

He’s not talking about ER doctors here, or single working moms juggling two days inside of one. No, he’s talking to those of us whose busyness is “purely self-imposed.” I sometimes take on trivial tasks like Atlas holding up the world. Sigh, I am so very, very busy. But do I have to be? Is there another option? Continue reading

Techno Tots

Woman Texting by Petr Kratochvil

I love traditions. I love the routine and flow of them, the predictability, the comfort. Our family is pretty young — our girls are 5 and 7 — so our traditions are relatively new. We watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade every year and usually the dog show too. Christmas morning means stockings, then breakfast, then the paper-ripping gala of presents. On Thanksgiving, we begin our celebration the night before, with a family dinner at Friendly’s. This year, our ice-cream extravaganza gave me an opportunity to think about family time and the more amorphous traditions that structure our day-to-day. Continue reading

Travel Light

Water In Motion by Petr Kratochvil

If it’s true that everyone has a path in life, then I have to say that lately mine is giving me motion sickness. There are U-turns galore, dead ends and ragged hairpin corners. At one point, I thought I had a map, but it must have blown right out the window.

I’m stumbling over words again, saying “dog food” when I mean “yogurt”. I forget where I’m driving, and head to Boston instead of Gardner. I can’t remember which toothbrush is mine, the blue one or the green one. These are not good signs. They make me worry that I’m doomed for early Alzheimer’s or that, in the nearer future, I will someday leave the house with a banana on my head. Continue reading

Six Square Feet of Granola Bars

shopping in aisle with cart

I’ve outgrown the majority of my childhood fears. I no longer tremble at snakes or spiders. Living in rural New England, I know what to do if I ever see a bear (though I’ve never actually seen one.) Those million-legged creepy crawlies that come out of the drain — well, they’ll never be a favorite, but I can grab a mini-vac and dispatch them without hysteria.

As a mom, I have been pushed, bodily, to the outside of squeamishness. When my children were very young, I spent entire winters as a human tissue. I’ve cleaned projectile vomit from the roof of the car. I’ve seen bloody noses that looked like modern art. By now, either my nerves are deadened or I’m just too tired to sustain the level of panic that qualifies as “freaking out.”

I’m not, however, unflappable.

Give me a daddy longlegs anyday, but please, oh please, don’t make me go shopping. Continue reading