Friday, September 4, 2009

New Blog

Hello, all!  I have decided, since I am no longer homeschooling, to start a new blog.  Please visit me at

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Good Times In Indiana

Just a few pics of the fun we had in the heartland! It's nice to be back, but I really miss the old stomping grounds. I am dying to move to Indiana and homeschool again - it's my newest wish!

Anna, high on the climbing wall at the 4th of July celebration in Lion's Park.

Decorating our American Flag cake.

My mom, demonstrating how to properly use a Snuggie.

The boys and cousin Reagan, enjoying the fireworks spectacular!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Latest Column

This is a similar, but expanded, post from my last one. More anecdotes from the wholesome midwest to come!

I recently embarked on a pilgrimage to my homeland of Indiana, not by Conestoga wagon like my ancestors (who include the great explorer Daniel Boone), but by Dodge Grand Caravan across the wilds of upstate New York and through Ohio, the most unremarkable state in the union.

Unlike days of yore when families and friends traveled in packs, I brought my children alone and somehow survived 20 hours of road travel and an overnight stay in a well-appointed Courtyard by Marriott the primitive way, without DVD player or hand-held electronic devices. But it is important to teach children of their roots, and what better way than a couple of weeks with relatives in another culture to help them learn.

“It’s so green here. And so much open space,” remarked my daughter, age 8. “It’s kind of creepy. Anything could just jump out of that cornfield at you.”

Now, I have never thought of Indiana as a creepy place. I grew up on a farm, complete with a 200-acre cornfield, where we would play Children of the Corn for hours, and hide from adult intervention. When I come back, I feel like my lungs can expand and I morph into a completely different person – the kids noticed this as well. “You’re so nice here, Mommy,” they say. “Can we have Indiana Mommy back home?”

I told them I will try, but it’s unlikely. While I love life in New England, with its sweet hamlets, rich history and the ocean, it’s a wholly different lifestyle – fast-paced and get-ahead quick – that I have to accustom myself to every time I leave and come back.

Yes, Indiana is mostly known for a car race (the Indy 500); farms; obese people in Spandex; and Michael Jackson. But the people are lovely. No one there cares if you were born there – they’re just glad you came by. The cashiers are friendly, and are genuine in their concern about your well-being. I am always surprised to find myself exchanging pleasantries with a check-out lady instead of hearing way too much information as she complains to the bag boy about her boyfriend, which seems to be the norm at the Stop and Shop.

People slow down and wave you in during rush hour on the highway. Roads are well-maintained; beautifully manicured parks and pools abound. There is sunshine galore and smiles wherever you look. It’s no wonder I always want to move back while we’re there. I am nicer, slower and more pleasant to be around in the Midwest, in part because people in Indiana do not cringe when I start to talk – there is a healthy respect for differing opinion decidedly not present in New England.

This is not to knock the life I have led in Amesbury for the last 10 years. I love the winding old roads, and the proximity to tax-free New Hampshire. The beaches are the best, and I cannot imagine going through life without a Newburyport just across a tiny bridge. But it’s hard sometimes to reconcile my upbringing as a Hoosier with the more rigid ways of the Northeast. I am glad my children get to see places where free-range behavior is encouraged and green expanses still exist. And here’s hoping, one day, I will figure out how to bring Nice Mommy back home.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Going Home and Other Musings

So, I just traveled for 20 hours with three children to the wilds of Indiana, my homeland and place I both dread and love. The week I left to come home was a big one, with the loss of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett in the same day. One of my friends put it best when she said that the death of MJ was pretty much the signal of the death of the childhoods of my generation. Since my childhood is kind of what I like to recapture when I visit here, that made me a little sad.

Being me, I have been overthinking all the things that have changed about the place I grew up. My first night here, I spent a couple of hours laughing until I nearly wet my pants with my dearest friend Amy (you can look for an entire post about her here, if you wish). On my way back to get the kids from my mom's house, I passed my grandparent's old house. They lived there from the mid-1940s until their deaths, in 2001 and 2008. A strange car was parked there and it really hit hard that I would never attend one of their famous Wassail parties at Christmas, when they entertained more than 100 friends. I'd never sit by my Nana's bedside and listen to her wise words - she had polio and was bedridden her final years, but never had one negative word to say. I'd never make mischief with Pop, who made it clear I was the favorite grandchild and didn't care that the fact of it upset people. I had to pull over because the tears made it hard for me to see.

My childhood is indeed over, and my children's childhoods are going far too quickly. I look at them and wish I could start over - be kinder, let more things go. I often wonder if visiting their own ancestral home will be a happy trip. I certainly hope so!

I am going to enjoy my time here as much as I can. I tend to be a different person in Indiana. I think it's the logical way the cities are laid out, the expanse of cornfields, the friendliness of clerk and driver alike, the slower pace. My mood is different, more calm. I am a person people want to talk to, and don't cringe when I speak like some do in Massachusetts. I tend not to dwell on the horrors of my real life, and I make my plan to escape back here someday.

Sorry for the maudlin tone. I hope to regale my very few readers with some funny stories. There is a person I would love to see, but want him to mostly remember me as a cute 22-year-old and not the fat girl I have become. I don't know if he will read this, but he knows who he is, and I hope he will intitiate a meeting because I am too scared. I guess you can't really ever go back!

Anyway, off to bed after a long night swimming and enjoying time here in the Hoosier state.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Recent Affliction

This is my most recent Free-Range Parenting column. Enjoy!

It seems that my household, for now at least, has escaped the scourge of the swine flu. Recently, however, I have realized that I may suffer from something even more sinister and hard to shake – the Whine Flu. It’s contagious as well, and I fear my children are catching it from me, given the state of their discontent lately.

I have never been a glass-half-full, rose-colored glasses kind of girl, and have always chalked it up to being a divergent thinker. But a remark from my daughter’s dance teacher made me sit up and do a little self-reflection. During a grueling 2-hour marathon of dance photos recently, I told the teacher we’d all be happier if the pictures were cancelled, because it takes up a whole Saturday when we could certainly be doing something more interesting. The teacher looked me in the eye and asked if I ever stop complaining.

I had a mental flashback to all the conversations I’ve had with her recently, and had to concede she was right! The shame. I have complained about dress rehearsals, the schedule and the cost of summer classes.

So I, being a former science fair champion, embarked on a scientific study of my behavior. Over the course of 2 days, I deliberately made notes of every time I whined about something. It was quite shocking! Some of the things included being cut off in traffic by an octogenarian who proceeded to go 15 miles an hour down Water Street, even though no one was behind me and if they had just waited 5 seconds for me to pass I could have gotten to Starbucks more quickly and avoided the long line there; the weather; a splinter in my foot that is stuck under the skin and still making me perverse when I walk; mowing the lawn; my dirty, near-biohazardlike home; the terror-ific way my twins sometimes behave; and the short lunch period at my daughter’s school.

Not one of these things is particularly noteworthy, and most are the product of my own poor choices. Why do I think anyone wants to hear me discuss these things in minutae? I bet my poor, patient friends are rolling their eyes on the inside.

The next 2 days, I decided to be a veritable ray of sunshine sort of girl. You know the type, who take things in stride and seem to always be skipping, with a halo around their shiny-haired heads. I made eye contact with strangers and smiled; thanked a service worker for wiping my table in the mall food court; did not honk at idiot drivers who cut me off; refused to complain about the things niggling my mind; and cleaned up my house my very own self. I played with my children and took them places, causing my daughter to ask what was wrong with me and why was I being so smiley and fun. Hmmmm.

I am pleased to report that I felt a little better on the sunny side of the street. However, the Herculean effort it took to bite my tongue and lay off the car horn nearly wiped me out and caused me to have to lie down with a cool cloth across my forehead. It takes a lot of concentration to find things to talk about that do not involve complaining, at least for a curmudgeon like myself.

Psychologists say it takes 21 days to change a habit. Nineteen more to go, I suppose. Most likely, the Whine Flu will always be in my system. Now that I am aware of it, though, I am making what I hope is a valiant effort to at least push it into remission. And since kids learn by example, perhaps my darlings will never acquire a full-blown case.

In the meantime, my goal is to get through each day doing a little less whining and being a little more grateful for what I do have, which is everything I need plus a little bit more.

Impending Visit of Doom

Yes, my mother-in-law is descending upon us this weekend, not unlike a hurricane on the Gulf coast. I have been scurrying about in a vain attempt to make my house a showplace to appease her OCD, lest I have to listen to her muttering under her breath about how lazy I am for 4 straight days.

She once told me that when her children were small, she was given the option of hiring a housekeeper or a nanny. She chose the housekeeper, because she didn't trust anyone to clean her house properly. So much became crystal clear when I learned of that choice.

During our last visit, we were discussing homeschooling and she said she finally understood my positions on working outside the home and school. Direct quote: "I think you feel about your kids like how I feel about my house. You don't trust nobody to do it right." (She speaks with a heavy Vietnamese accent, she is not a hillbilly). I guess she is correct. Her kids are a mess, but her house is clean. I suppose I am the opposite.

We have a busy weekend ahead, with Anna's end of the year dance recital and school closing for the year. I am hoping her visit will be but a blur in my memory.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Crazy Headlines

One of my vices is compulsively reading pop culture tabloids in the grocery store checkout line and on the internet. Some things that have happened to celebrities by their own doing have caused me no end of entertainment and caused many questions, some inappropriate, to pop into my head.

The first is the untimely death of the star of Kung Fu David Carradine. Is it sad, pathetic or just downright hilarious that one of the first thoughts upon finding out the exact cause of death is that it would not be surprising if a certain member of my household met a similar fate? And how awful it must have been for Carradine's family...and at 72 years old. Oy vey.

And Chastity Bono is becoming a man. Named Chaz. Why anyone would do this is beyond my comprehension. Being a girl is so much fun! We can change our hair at whim, we are not hairy, we can wear skirts or pants and still be socially acceptable, we can giggle, read chick books, have babies and are generally enjoyable to be around.

Now, Chastity/Chaz is a lesbian. My question is this: once she is a man, will she just be a boring straight guy?

Then, there is the whole Jon and Kate thing. Jon is a weenie and Kate is a shrew. It's those kids I worry the most about. The most disturbing thing by far, though, is Kate's hair. Who in the name of all that is holy would deliberately cut someone's hair like that? It's like a reverse mullett, porcupine-butt, Flock of Seagulls look gone all wrong. If only her hair was cute, she'd be able to be happy. And then maybe she'd like her kids, even the icky boys.

Things I don't care about include who Kate Hudson is dating, who is pregnant and the goings on of holier-than-thou Brangelina with their spawn.

Why I am I celebrity obsessed? Aren't we all? I think it's because I can envision myself as a celebrity for the few moments I read the mags. Then I catch a glimpse of myself in the door glass as I depart, and reality sets back in. It also makes my own life seem so normal. In the last week, my children have:

1. Adopted a clan of slugs after a rainstorm. They are living in a bowl of mud on the porch.
2. Learned to make their own quesedillas.
3. Built an obstacle course for Lizzie the Lizard.
4. Drew more than 100 pictures of superheroes with which to decorate an entire bedroom.
5. Built an entire army barracks out of sticks at Sawyer Park with friends.

So normal. And so fine. I cannot wait for summer to commence!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

This is My 100th Post

Wow! I have slowed down on writing some, as the weather has been nicer and we've been outdoors more - not so much material from the kids lately. Normal play at the beach or playgrounds is not so interesting to read about.

I have in my travels lately, however, run into some really crazy mommies. I just attract them somehow.

For instance, while minding my own business at a pot luck recently, a mom I've never met before came over to chat. Straight out of the barn, she mentioned her career, how she would never, ever be a stay-at-home mom and asking my opinion about if she should have another - she's worried because her first is so easy and maybe the second one won't be. Because, of course, a maternity leave longer than 6 weeks would be sheer hell. Oh, and after finding out that I have 3 children and don't work full-time, she asked what I might have to talk about that is remotely interesting.

Being a mostly SAHM myself and craving more children than I already have, I was a little taken aback. I don't even know this woman's name and she has already bashed my choice to be home and acts like children are on this earth to bend to our whims (which they certainly do not). Being me, I went into joke mode and said that you never can predict what your little ones will be like. I also pointed out that, like me, she could end up with twins the second time around.

She then (remember, I still don't know her name) contorted her face and said twins would never be an option for her and that she would terminate the pregnancy if there were twins. Because twins might cause her to have to work less.

So, how does one respond? Especially since I know that twins, while difficult, have brought me so much joy and laughter. Especially since I am pro-life. I wanted to ask her why she would kill her babies and why she had any to begin with, but didn't want to cause a scene (this is a new goal after I accused someone of snubbing me in public in a FB status update and got caught), so I mumbled that twins aren't so bad.

This lady told me that yes, they are, and people should only have 2 children anyway to keep 0 population growth. I sighed and ambled away and immediately latched onto a rational friend to relay the story to see if the "f" word playing around in my head was unfounded.

I still don't know what I should have said. I am sad for this woman and her daughter and wonder what she will feel in a few years when the early years are gone and she has spent them in an office instead of savoring every minute possible of the time when kids actually want to be with you. Please don't think I am being a sanctimommy here, but I really don't get it. I am not a perfect mom, but I believe my children take comfort in knowing that I am here even when I am not directly interacting with them.

Anyway, the sun is finally shining again and we're off to a frog pond. Here's hoping the nice, normal moms are out in force today!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Vices. All moms have them. For my grandmother, who reared her children in the 1950s, it was cocktails and "pep pills." For my mother, whose children were young in the 1970s, it was Marlboro Reds and Oreo cookies scarfed down with her head hiding between open kitchen cabinets while she pretended to put away dishes. For Gen X moms, it's arguably Facebook (and possibly the Twilight book series).

Like an obsessive stalker boyfriend who starts out friendly enough and later becomes impossible to avoid, and at the same time is attractive and addictive, Facebook draws you in. "What are you doing right now?" it asks. "What are your favorite books?" "What five people deserve a punch in the face?" I want to answer all the questions and placate the Facebook demon but know that there are better ways to spend my time.

For me, the low point came a couple of weeks ago when my children were bouncing around my feet like little jumping beans, clutching their empty bellies and begging for dinner — and I put off cooking for them to complete a quiz called, "Will You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse." In case you are wondering, I will be one of the first to die, but not before realizing the horror of the situation.

I have spent some time while driving recently contemplating the appeal of Facebook. It started as a social networking program for teens and college students, but now hordes of older people (like myself) have joined in.

Because of our fast-paced, child-centered parenting these days, it's hard to find time to be with friends without the kids. I think we love Facebook because it's possible to check in a few times a day and see what everyone is up to without having to rearrange schedules for face-to-face meetings. It also breaks up the monotony of housework and child rearing for a snippet of adult time. And those quizzes and games are just too much fun. Who cares that my mouse hand is starting to resemble a shriveled claw from all that clicking?

What is a parent to do? I am forever lecturing my children of the importance of self-control and limiting screen time. I fear that I often limit their screen time so I can have more of it myself. Is the lesson they're receiving a positive one? That it's acceptable to eschew human contact for superficial status updates? Do as I say, not as I do?

I have been considering detoxing from Facebook, or just becoming a lurker for a while. I ask myself if I really believe anyone cares what songs make me cry, or what I am thinking. Probably not. But it's cathartic in a way to put it all out there, just in case. To have contact with people who are taller than 4 feet and can use multisyllabic words. Who will comment back to me that they understand my plight, that some people have children who do weirder things than mine do.
Yes, Facebook is my vice and dirty little secret (not so secret anymore). At least I haven't signed up for Twitter ....

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Yesterday, someone asked me how things are at home, someone who knows a few details from the tip of the iceberg about the state of my marriage. I am never sure if people really want to know, or if they are just being polite. I just said that things were "per usual" and carried on to be polite and not make anyone uncomfortable. No one likes a whiny girl.

What I really wanted to say is that I am often stricken by bouts of lonliness and feel an undercurrent of sadness much of the time. That I often want a hug or an alcoholic beverage (or both simultaneously) but neither is forthcoming. How did this happen, I ask myself. I am a reasonably attractive girl, or so I am told; carrying a few extra pounds but still able to move comfortably. My age is often guessed 8-10 years younger (I am 38, but was just last week accused of being "about 27" by someone who had no reason to suck up or to make me feel better). I can be fun and witty, when the stars align correctly. Why am I looked through at home, like I am just a wisp of air, inconsequential on its way to somewhere else?

So I guess things are for me how they are for many: a little confusing and somewhat terrifying.

The bright spot(s) are my wonderful children, who don't really mind the few extra pounds and beg me to read to them. I haven't written about them for awhile, so here is an update:

Anna is doing great in school, though she says she misses me all day and wishes I were there. I want to videotape her saying that to play back when she is 16 and doesn't even want me in the same county.

Poor Jake has been battling a strange virus that has landed him on the couch for a few days, with high fever. I have been holding vigil at night with him in my bed, my hand in his hot little one as he sleeps. I figure I can sleep later.

Ryan is turning out to be my comedian. He has made up his own language using clicking sounds from his fingernails and weird noises. Occasionally he will translate for us, and always makes me laugh.

So, in all, I would say things are maudlin. Some happiness shining through the heavy thoughts. Can that be said in polite company? Maybe next time I'll try.