Adventures in Parenting

JULIE: Good night.

KID: Mom- before I go to bed, there are two things I want to talk to you about.

JULIE: Okay?

KID: Number one: I have questions about faith versus science, and I’m not sure what I believe or even how to believe in both at the same time? ….And number two: I am thinking about wearing makeup to school tomorrow.


KID: You can just focus on one of those for now if you want.

    Bullet point Thursday

    • Last night I got TWO, not one but TWO, “You got its” from the yoga instructor. To be fair: Amy wasn’t there today to be his favorite beloved– but a teacher’s pet wannabe will take any edge she can get. (Also: as a result of my extra-hard work last night, this morning I can actually hardly move. Totally worth it.)
    • Yesterday I found a confused-looking bee in the house, crawling over the window. “Oh- there’s a bee in the house,” I said. “Burn it down,” Gabby replied.
    • Yesterday I spent the day updating course websites. That kind of updating- where you’re changing calendar dates and editing links– is just soul-crushing for me. The most boring and tedious job ever.
    • Also, apparently all the classroom computers are being updated to Windows 10, because absolutely no one wants that and so I.T. is doing it. (Dave: It’s just a gateway. Me: Shut up, Dave.)
    • This next several weeks is filled with First Day of School pics on Facebook. I freaking love these. I love everything about first day pics- I love the ones where the parents are being obnoxiously happy that their kids are going back to school; I love the ones where the date is written in chalk on a little chalkboard (do people buy little chalkboards just for this purpose, and just keep them at their house all year in a special place? –Probably next to Elf on a Shelf, which is why this tradition is not for me); I love when the kids are willing and I really love when they’re unwilling. There is something so sweet and fun about the first day and I can’t get enough.
    • Cam came home from his first day and exclusively reported on which of his friends were in which of his classes– which as everyone knows is the only important thing about high school.
    • At this point, I’m just avoiding the terrible, all my muscles hurt, what-did-you-do-last-night run I have to take this morning. I’m going to go do that, I guess… unless anyone wants to post more pics for me? I’ll wait here a bit longer. Just in case.

      Head of the class

      Mom and I started going to a yoga class this summer. I haven’t taken a yoga class in years and Mom had never taken a class, so it’s been fun for both of us. Now, you should know this about me: if I am in a class situation– any class situation– I expect to be at the head of the class. And if necessary, I will work hard to get to the head of the class. And then I will expect to be recognized as the head of the class. I’m sorry if this bothers you or is nerdy or too competitive (I’m not sorry); but this is the deal. This, for better or worse, is who I am.

      So at our first class, the class leader asked who was new to the class. Mom and I raised our hands. He responded, “This is our fitness yoga class. We have a beginner’s yoga class on Tuesdays.” (Hmph. Do we look like fitness beginners? Whatever.) So, he led us through a pretty involved and challenging series of sequences. At the end he told Mom and me that we needed to get our own mats instead of using the gym mats, and that was it. We did get our mats, and we have been going to class faithfully, steadily improving as we go.

      Tonight I went to yoga by myself. There were two new people, whom he welcomed very warmly. Then he led us through another series of challenging sequences, including two handstand poses which were really, really hard. So hard, in fact, that the woman next to me– her name is Amy and he calls on her all the time to be his example– Amy and I were the only two people in the entire class who were doing the handstands. Repeat: everyone else? Could not do the handstands. But Amy, Class Example, did the handstands– and I, Head of the Class Wannabe, did the handstands.  Holding my pose perfectly, my muscles screaming, sweat dripping down my temples, I waited to be recognized.

      “Well done, Amy. And to our two newbies: you did very well too. I would like to welcome you to keep coming to Monday night yoga,” he said.


      I collapsed to the floor and yelled from my crumpled position, “You never said that to us! All you ever said to us was to buy our own mats!! Have you seen my shoulders? I am the strongest person in this room– and I am the only other person, besides your beloved Amy, who is doing these handstands!” (No I didn’t. I just thought all of those things, with the furious intensity of the Class Nerd, while holding my very challenging handstand that I wasn’t getting any credit for.)

      But you know what? If I have to attend his classes until I die– that man will compliment me. As God is my witness, he will recognize me as the head of his class.


        A thought on parenting

        This is something that’s been sort of swirling around in my head for a month or so now, and in a larger sense for a couple of years: being a parent is about putting in the time. As sweet as he was and as much as we loved him, Cam was a challenging and colicky baby and then toddler. He needed us to help him through that. He still needs us- and his sisters are the same. What they need is becoming more nuanced, maybe less easy to see, as they get older– but we still need to be there. The day-to-day issues have shifted: first they learned to speak, now they’re learning how to use electronic media. Not as adorable, just as necessary. Parenting is a marathon. It’s not a relay, where we get to stop and let them finish becoming adults on their own. We can’t carry them either: we have to run alongside them the whole way, both when it’s easy and fun, and when it’s challenging. Sometimes, when I’m having a particularly tough workout, I remind myself that the real work gets done when it’s hard, not when everything feels easy. I feel the same about the kids: when they’re down, and struggling, and it’s difficult– that’s when the real work of parenting is happening. You won’t get to the finish by giving up when it’s tough, and by the way: you can’t buy it either. You have to keep showing up and running. That’s the only way.

        It’s not always easy and it’s not always successful and sometimes we are frustrated with them and sometimes they are frustrated with us. But every day, Dave and I show up, and we run alongside them. Even when it sucks. Even when we’re in the middle of something else. Even when we have to put their needs ahead of our wants. It’s our priority to be good parents, and we take examples from other parents and we own up to our mistakes and we try to do better next time, and we keep running.




          My intention, on August 8, 2003, had been to pass my weekly NST and go back to the office. Instead, after thirty minutes or so, the resident came into the room and said, “You have a beautiful contraction pattern. We’ve called for a wheelchair to take you to Labor and Delivery.” After twelve hours of nothing followed by 10 minutes of, “Don’t push! The doctor isn’t here yet!” -Gabrielle Cait came into the world, without the doctor’s presence, just before 9pm (side note: “don’t push” is a totally useless request). She had huge eyes, blonde hair, and the cutest little nose. We could not believe our good fortune. I thought I was the luckiest mother alive.

          No time at all went by. And then, a few days ago, we were walking dogs at a local animal shelter when I caught sight of a beautiful older girl in the meadow in front of us. She was walking a rambunctious puppy around the meadow, leading the dog with the unconscious grace of a natural athlete. When she caught sight of me, she yelled, “Hey Mom! This dog’s name is Butch, how cute is that? Come pet him. I love him so much, Mom!”

          She is and has always been a tornado made of happy confidence, big dreams, hilarious comebacks, and untamable hair. We cannot believe our good fortune. I am the luckiest mother alive.


            Gabby the Style Consultant

            Dave was showing the girls a bunch of photos from my childhood, from my early twenties, etc. Here are some assorted comments made by Gabby:
            “Ohhhhh, Mom, now THAT’S a style!”
            “Is- is that whole thing one person’s hair?”
            “You really had a lot of turtlenecks back in the day.”
            “What did people think of you at that time, Mom? Like, was that considered cool back then?”
            At the end, Gabby summed it up like this: “Mom… you really went through a lot of bad looks before you found the right hair.”
            I’m a little surprised she doesn’t have any concerns about my current hair, to be honest.

              Parse this:

              Over the weekend, Gabby scored a huge milestone in dance– finally breaking past her plateau of an entire season and qualifying for Oireachtas this fall. At the next day’s competition, she earned third place in her set dance, which was awesome (and a sign that we should just skip the very last, for-fun-only competition of the day and head home).

              As I fell asleep last night, I was thinking over the weird vagaries of Irish dance scoring: three judges score each round and place each dancer individually. Then, those scores are combined and turned into new numbers, which establish the overall placement for each dancer. Individually, one judge placed Gabby 4th and the other two placed her 5th. Yet somehow, when it all shook out, she came in at 6th place. I fell asleep trying to figure out how that works. And I immediately dreamed about the rabbit that lives behind our back yard: in my dream, we were headed to a competition but the rabbit had grown huge and was stomping around the yard on its hind legs. I was like, “…back in the house. Everyone, get back in the house.” And then we tried to figure out how to get her to her competition when the rabbit was still around.

              ..What does that even mean? Any ideas?

                The Plagiarism Question

                “93% of the speech is completely different than Michelle Obama’s speech.” -Chris Christie, discussing Melania Trump’s speech to the RNC last night

                It’s details like this which really make my brain bleed. Donald Trump is popular with many people, despite his lack of thoughtful details: he makes sweeping predictions about what his administration will do (destroy ISIS, for example) without ever explaining how he will do it (read Ezra Klein’s take on Trump’s 60 Minutes interview). The Trump team has big ideas, but has not explained how their ideas will be accomplished. We’re just continuously assured that it will happen, and it will be great.

                This plagiarism– and make no mistake, that is exactly what it is-– in a speech given last night by Melania Trump is a great example of what happens when no one pays attention to detail. First, she told Matt Lauer that she wrote it herself, “with as little help as possible.” Then, when the plagiarism from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech was exposed, the first reaction from the Trump camp was to deny. The next reaction, when proof was produced, was to blame Hillary Clinton. Finally, they acknowledged that Mrs. Trump had had speechwriters– now she looks stupid for claiming she wrote it herself– and that they had taken “fragments” of the speech from other sources. And then Chris Christie, everyone’s favorite bumbling idiot, chimed in and said that the speech was 93% hers. (Mr. Christie, I invite you to contact your seventh-grade math teacher, and ask if it’s okay to provide only 93% of your own answers on a test. AND THAT’S A SEVENTH GRADE MATH TEST.)

                First of all, when you take someone else’s words or ideas and present them as your own, that is plagiarism. As I tell my students: if you’re ever the slightest bit concerned that your writing might be too close to someone else’s, the solution is to either use a different idea– or cite your source. They didn’t do either. Rookie mistake. Then they played an embarrassing game of Hot Potato over it, and you know why? -Because no one is looking at the details in Trump’s campaign. They’re caught up by the details, every time.

                Trump and his people lack the sophistication and nuance to properly vet a few lines in a speech, and they can’t properly handle the fallout from that either. Can you imagine what would happen if they were in charge of the most powerful country in the world?

                  Summer Projects: Kid Edition

                  Perhaps modeling themselves after their parents– who try to take on at least one major home renovation each summer (this summer was about the dining room and office)– the kids like to use their summer for projects too. This is fine and more than fine: I enjoy their creativity and I encourage all their ideas. I even go out and buy whatever they need to complete their projects, pretty much on demand.

                  Yesterday, in the service of a project involving pillows made from Irish dance socks, the girls spilled several dozen pins and needles onto our living room carpet.

                  I just want to emphasize what happened: they had a basket with an undetermined number of pins and needles. They ignored my warnings to treat said basket with care. They upended it over our chocolate brown living room carpet like a terrible Easter egg hunt. We went over the carpet multiple times, both with our hands and then with magnets- but I’m certain pins continue to lurk. And because we don’t know exactly how many were in the basket to begin with, there’s really no way of knowing (until I feel one slide into the sole of my foot, of course).

                  I was furious. FURIOUS. Generally speaking I don’t go too crazy over an accident– but this was an easily preventable accident, and they ignored my instructions about how to avoid it, and then it happened. I know: kids do that. Doesn’t make me feel any better about the prospect of hunting through Guinness’ fur for the head of a pin, though. So I had to remind myself: regardless of my expectations for them, these are kids. They will do things that suck. And hopefully they will learn from those things, and do better the next time.

                  “You’ll miss these days,” they say. And I dislike when someone says that to me because it’s like being admonished that 1. I’m not appreciating these days enough, and 2. the days to come will somehow be lesser. I disagree with both: I am fifteen years into my life as a parent, and so far, I have loved every season of family life. So far, I continue to look forward to the future and what it brings us. Don’t blink, you say? The day will come when you’ll wish that’s the only trouble they get into, you say? Well, none of that makes this incident into a magical fairyland memory.

                  And yet: today the girls plan to make stuffed owls out of the sock remnants, a project that I greenlit without hesitation. So, instead of guilting me into pretending this is a fun memory, how about you just grab a magnet and help me look for pins.

                    Gabbyism of the Day

                    Gabby, walking up to me at the library with two very different books in her hand: “Look Mom– my two favorite things: alternative medicine and ghost hunting.”

                    There is no emoji to properly express my reaction.

                    There is no emoji to properly express my reaction.

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