Apparently I Still Don’t Know Better

My mom has given me lots of useful advice over the years in regards to keeping a healthy marriage. I value her opinion greatly, especially since my parents still court each other after 39 years. Some of my most favorite include:

  • Drinking wine helps you be more amorous even when you are tired
  • Always let your husband think he has made the final decision
  • Never bombard your husband with complaints the minute he walks in the door, wait until after dinner
  • Pick your battles
  • Don’t assume anything
  • Asking for forgiveness is easier than asking for permission

Unfortunately, I have not mastered the art of keeping my mouth shut and refraining from undermining his parental authority.

Last night, The Hare wanted to pour her own milk. I’ve been buying the 1/2 gallon jugs to make it easier for her to be more independent, but even those are tricky when they are full. She started to pour the chocolate milk, resting the neck of the jug on her plastic cup. The cup tipped slightly, so The Hare stopped pouring. She realized the cup was balancing precariously on the edge of her placement, making it a little uneven. She tried again. We all waited with bated breath at the dinner table as she insisted, “I can do it myself!”

The Tortoise couldn’t take the tension anymore and reached over to the tilting milk jug, grabbing the bottom. The Hare jumped in frustration, trying to jerk it away from her sister.

“Stop! Let your sister pour her own milk!” I snapped, picturing a pool of sticky chocolate milk drizzling to the floor.

As The Hare finally started to fill her cup, The Tortoise reached out for the jug again, this time her arm went under the container and tried to grab the plastic cup.

” I said I could do it!” grunted The Hare, filling her cup to the brim.

DW slapped his hand down on the table.

I knew what was coming.

We all knew what was coming.

“Didn’t your mother just tell you not to help her with the milk!” he remarked sharply, “You need to listen better and not disrespect your mother like that when she gives you a direct order!”

We all nodded our head in agreement, and took a bite of dinner.

There was a moment of silence and then he continued.

And continued.

And continued.

And continued making his point.

The Tortoise’s eyes glazed over as she started to push food around her plate. The Hare slunk deeper into her chair trying to avoid all eye contact and I just couldn’t help myself.

I started to smile.

And then giggle.

And then suddenly I was bursting out in laughter.

Everyone stopped eating and looked at me in confusion.

“I’m so sorry, ” I gasped, catching my breath, “But you sound just like my dad when I was thirteen! He couldn’t let anything go either.”

The Hare tried to conceal a smile while The Tortoise looked at me in horror.

“What?” asked DW bewildered.

“My dad, ” I giggled, “would go on for hours about the same thing. In fact, if you were him, you’d probably bring this up again at breakfast.”

“Well maybe I should!” he said slightly offended.

I knew I shouldn’t have interrupted but this was such a deja vu moment. The right thing to do would have been to apologize and just stop talking.

But I didn’t.

“She’s doing exactly what I used to do – tune out after the first sentence, leaving my dad talking to himself.”

DW didn’t respond. He stared down at his plate and breathed deeply.

I stopped laughing. The kids weren’t sure what to do now. I was starting to regret my outburst.

DW stretched his arms out, laid both hands flat on the table and replied, “Then I guess all thirteen year old girls are a pain in the neck!”

“And let me tell you ALL the reasons why…” he said laughing and winking at The Tortoise.


Bathroom Breaks and Mommy Hiding Places

The RemembeRed memoir assignment this week,  from Write on Edge, was a little different. This week we were asked, in 500 words or less, to describe the opening scene of a film. The film made from our best-selling memoir. What does the camera see? Who speaks the first lines of our story? Is there music? Did we give screenplay formatting a try?



An L-shaped master bathroom, with two sinks, a corner whirlpool tub and a small shower stall. The room is illuminated by a glass block wall above the tub. The door is closed.

Mismatched towels dangle from hooks on the wall. Sinks are crusted with toothpaste, walls are splattered with hairspray, and the toilet stinks. Long, dark hairs cover white tile.

EMILY sits on top of a toilet seat cover. Wearing pajamas and eating a bag of salt and vinegar chips, she brushes away falling hair from a messy knot on top of her head. She takes a swig of beer.

We see exhaustion in her makeup-less face as she stares blankly at her reflection in a dusty mirror. She digs deep into the bag, searching for a burnt chip. After devouring the chip, she licks salt off her fingers.

There is a soft knock on the door. CHILD 1 is standing outside.

EMILY freezes, holds her breath and waits.



Mom? Are you in there?



I’m about to take a shower. What do you need?


(now sobbing)

Sissy is being mean and won’t play with me!


(throws her head back, opens her mouth in a silent scream and stares at the ceiling)

Then go find something to do by yourself.



I can’t! I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.


(stares at the closed door, takes another sip of beer)

If you’re that bored, I can give you something to do, like cleaning your room.



NO! Never mind.

We hear feet running away from the door. EMILY sighs and continues to eat chips.

There is a more aggressive knock on the door. CHILD 2 is standing outside.


Are you done with your shower yet? I don’t hear the water running.


(shoulders drop as she mouths a very bad word directly at the dry shower head.)

I just finished. Why, what do you need?



I want to go to a restaurant. There’s nothing good to eat here.


I’ll take everybody out  if you help me clean the bathrooms first.



Are you still out there?



Yeah, never mind. I’ll just have a frozen pizza.

EMILY moves to the shaggy brown carpet in front of the tub, stretches out her legs and leans back against the tile surround

In the distance, we can hear football and DW yelling at the TV.

Suddenly there is a persistent jingle bell sound and whimpering coming from downstairs.



The dog needs to go outside.


(rolling her eyes and yelling back)

I’m in the bathroom.

We hear heavy footsteps on a wood floor. The front door opens and shuts sharply. Dog bells clang loudly against the slammed door.

EMILY picks up a magazine from a wicker basket next to the tub; thumbs through the pages and smiles.



At last, a moment to myself.

Clean House, Clean Conscience

I never realized how many cookbooks I had until they were organized in one place.

I feel for all those bloggers that have to utilize their nights and weekends writing.

Life is too distracting when my family is home to be very creative, especially since my desk is right in the middle of the chaos. During the school week, my ability to gaze out my front windows, absorbing the sunlight and the trees, is only skewed by seasonal rain or snow. Then, of course, I can get lost for hours in the moisture rich skies. There are no children running through the house, football watching husbands shouting at the TV screen or pressing schedules. Plus, when everyone is home, I feel guilty taking too much “me time”. I feel like I need to be physically busy, not just mentally moving. Unfortunately, though, I haven’t been very good at balancing my writing time with my housecleaning, resulting in my husband wiping a wall of dust off of his nightstand this weekend when he reached for the remote control.

I was incredibly embarrassed.

Add to the fact that The Hare needed more attention due to minor oral surgery on Thursday, and The Tortoise has come down with some sort of head-cold, I have been needed in areas other than the laundry room. Monday was my opportunity to tackle the grocery shopping and cleaning. In my head, I really thought I could get it all done in a few hours, leaving me time to write. But by six o’clock, I was still in my bleach-stained cleaning pants with a mop in one hand and a spoon in the other stirring potato soup. I was asleep by 10pm, which is highly unusual, but I had three clean bathrooms and bedrooms, vacuumed carpets, mopped tile, glistening granite, organized shelves, folded laundry and dust-free rooms from top to bottom. And a kitchen full of fresh produce and usable groceries.

I was incredibly productive.

As I sit down this morning, for the first time in weeks, my conscience is clean too. I didn’t realize how burdened and cluttered my brain had become from neglecting the space around me. I had developed tunnel vision, only looking at the pictures on my desk or the view out my windows and ignored the dried toothpaste on the bathroom counter. Three days away from my craft made me a bit anxious, cementing in my mind that this is more than just a hobby but a passion. However, now that I have sweated Pine-Sol and waded through elbow grease, I also see that I can’t neglect the other things I am passionate about: taking care of my family and my home. The scales were weighted unevenly and balance needed to be restored.

I was incredibly unbalanced.

And now, I’m not.

So, please, if you have any words of wisdom about how to get it all done on a daily basis, I am all ears.



Not For the Faint of Heart, Apply at Your Own Risk

38-year-old wife and mother seeking an assistant wife.

Duties include, but not limited to: bill paying, transportation services, catering, laundry services, home organization, educational assistance, housekeeping, and party planning.

Must not value personal space or have strong attachments to personal items. Must be prepared to share clothes with a teenager, with the knowledge that borrowed items will either never be returned or will be returned in sub-par condition. Must be able to refrain from drinking and driving while listening to the high-pitched squeals of multiple girls in a moving vehicle. Must be able to keep their mouth shut about clothing choices made by a 9-year-old girl, even if she looks like  she is applying for a job with the circus. Must never re-make beds that do not meet their personal standard. Must be okay with daily rejection and harsh criticism about what is for dinner. Must be prepared to repeat themselves continuously in a rational and non-defensive manner when asking for help or giving instructions. In general, the ability to shrug off rude comments and harsh tones from family members without losing their temper is expected and required. Must be able to watch the same movie or listen to the same song a hundred times over without going crazy. Personal hygiene optional.

Some perks include, but not limited to: random hugs and kisses, snuggling in bed watching cartoons, eating raw cookie dough, Rock Band or Karaoke marathons, dancing in the kitchen, being loved unconditionally.

Applicants should expect nothing in return for their efforts. Working conditions are inconsistent and sometimes hostile. Bonuses are rare. You will be required to be on-call 24 hours, 7-days a week. Greying hair, weight gain, wrinkles and a loss of identity are possible side-effects of these conditions.

Women seeking personal gains and daily recognition need not apply.

The Red Writing Hood assignment this week,  from Write on Edge , was to write a personal ad, looking for love. It could be from the perspective of a character, or one for you or someone you know. The word limit was 300.

Fresh Paint and Heartache

I can’t smell fresh paint anymore.

Three and a half years ago this room was transformed from builder’s white to a calm, serene sea of green. She was only ten then, and this was her first “big girl” room, with no frilly flowers on the bedspread or baby pink curtains. We placed inspiration on the walls, French Boards covered in photos, shelves of books and a closet full of more grown-up clothes. Stuffed animals, Barbies and games were banned and sent to the playroom for her little sister. It was a peaceful room, her retreat, where I was always welcome. Sometimes we would lie on her bed, snuggling. I would bury my face in her thick, wavy hair, inhaling the fresh scent of strawberry shampoo and Dove soap. Her baby smell was gone, replaced by a little girl fragrance laced with Bonnie Bell lip-gloss and bubble gum. I used to walk by her room in the middle of the day and take inventory of her life. The door was wide open, the bed made, and things neatly put away. Sunshine streamed through the windows, warms and vibrant, dancing around the emptiness. Sometimes, I would sit on her soft striped quilt, the layers of brown, blue and green reminiscent of a beach retreat. I would sit and stare at all of her things, eagerly waiting for her to return. The scent of lemon Pledge and lavender Carpet Fresh filled the room.

But not any more.

Now she is 13 1/2 years old and this room seems much smaller. Brown, wooden shades are always drawn shut, barricading the sun, making the green walls grey and dingy in the darkness. Piles of clean and dirty clothes are strewn across the floor. Closet doors flash the room, revealing its nakedness, as empty hangers dangle precariously above mounds of shoes. Stacks of books and magazines haphazardly decorate heavily dust laden shelves. Empty food wrappers and crumpled pieces of paper gather on her dresser, spilling on to the floor. Sweat stained t-shirts and fragrant underwear try to escape the over-flowing wicker laundry hamper. My nose burns inhaling the smell of body odor and staleness. She does not want me in here anymore, not to clean, not to cuddle. The door is always shut. Sometimes, when she is at school, I hesitate in front of her stark white door, trying to picture the little girl with the pig-tails and bright red bows. But as soon as I walk inside her room, the rough unmade bed and overwhelming collection of bulging sports bags and backpacks reminds me of the angry teenager that stormed out of my house yesterday morning, slamming the back door hard on her way out.

I miss this Tortoise, age 4

At 3:30 yesterday afternoon, I caught a glimpse of my chubby cheeked cherub as she strolled sheepishly inside the kitchen. Her pink and white tote bag landed softly on the mud-room floor, as she draped her jacket across a bar stool.

“Mom,” she said, wrapping her warm arms around my waist, “I’m sorry for how I treated you these past couple of days.”

“I forgive you, always,” I replied, burying my face in a mass of wavy brown hair, breathing deeply the smell of strawberry shampoo and Dove soap. I could smell peanut butter sandwiches and butterfly kisses.

And if I try hard enough, I might be able to smell fresh paint.

The RemembeRed memoir assignment this week,  from Write on Edge, was to let narrative take a backseat. We were asked to step back into a significant moment in our life and bring back the sensory treasures found there, the feelings, scents, textures, sounds, tastes, and colors of the moment.