Juan Pablo can wait

Photo via ihategreenbeans.com

Juan Pablo can wait, especially when he makes duckface

Last night, my son was having a tough night. He had had a long day at his midwinter break daycamp because I had to work later than normal, and he was looking forward to coming home to play his favorite online game and watch his favorite YouTube channel. But the WiFi wasn’t working well, it was a windy night and the router was wonky. And so, in the midst of playing a game, he would suddenly shriek. Or sigh heavily. Or bang on the keyboard in frustration. Eventually, he cried.

“Stop crying, please,” I said, from the couch. I was lying there, watching my recorded episode of The Bachelor after a long day at work, looking for a little decompression time, myself.

“BUT IT WON’T WORK!” He cried. He slammed his laptop shut and layed in a heap on the floor, clearly frustrated.

“I’m not going to help you when you’re acting that way,” I said. “If you can come over and ask me calmly for some help, maybe I can take a look. Why don’t you play with something else? Your cars or trucks? Read a book?”

“NO!” yelled my normally good natured and sweet son. “JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!”

I gasped. I looked at him, lying in an unintended downward dog pose on the floor and in that moment I realized – thank goodness, I realized – he didn’t need  Perfectly Good Idea mom. He didn’t need a timeout. He didn’t even really need the WiFi to work, although I’m sure that would’ve helped significantly. What he needed was me. Me, connected with him. That’s it.

I paused my show, even though Sharleen was just about to break up with Juan Pablo and it was major, but that’s beside the point.

“Do you want to watch something together?” I asked.

He looked up, his eyes red. His whole face red.

“Something we both agree on?” he asked, his voice tiny and adorably hopeful.

“Yes, something we both like.”

“Yeah,” he said, and he jumped up onto the couch with me. We decided on a Pokemon episode. He cuddled up, my nearly 8 year old little angel, and I tousled his hair and bent to kiss his cheek as he covered us both up with his favorite blue blankie.

I closed my eyes and forced myself to cherish that moment, to remember it, to burn it into my brain. You see, I also have a sweet 19 year old. I know all too well how quickly kids grow up. How fast they go from wanting nothing more than their mom to truly wanting to be left alone. How quickly the days of watching TV together turn into walking down the hall and hearing a TV blaring behind a closed bedroom door. I know how fast our little ones become teenagers with friends and dates and cell phones of their own, and it happens before you realize it’s even happening. Oh, trust me, friends. It happens in a snap.

Do yourselves a favor and remember this: they won’t be little forever. Juan Pablo can wait – make room on that couch today.

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10 things about going to the movies with kids

I took my son to see The Lego Movie today, and yes, it WAS awesome. We both laughed, we had a great time. That said, there are a few things that happen every time I take my kids to movies…

1. When you ask for butter on your popcorn the person behind the counter assumes you just meant the top 6 pieces. You’re on your own for the rest of the bag. However, if you fail to get popcorn, you will spend the entire movie wishing you had.Image

2. Someone will sit behind you and put their feet on your chair, or kick your chair throughout the movie or otherwise bump, bang into, relentlessly press against (my least favorite), or otherwise take their aggression out on the back of your seat. I have to always assume it’s a CHILD behind me and their parent is oblivious to what their kid’s feet might be doing, so I roll out a number of techniques to make my chair as unappealing as possible. These range from bouncing back and forth in my seat in attempt to shimmy their feet off, to quickly turning my head to the side to shoot angry dagger eyes that almost but not entirely reach their intended recipient (I’m not an owl). That second one nearly always does the trick and it lasts about 13.2 seconds before the next bouncy-bangy round begins so you can thank me for that one.


3. In the trailers before the film starts, anytime a character references the word ‘butt,’ (and it WILL happen), kids will laugh and then repeat ‘butt’ out loud (or, ‘HE SAID BUTT’ or ‘HAHA BUTT’) and then there’s a lot of parental shushing and you won’t be able to hear whatever came next on-screen.


4. If you had the good sense to do any pre-movie planning, you figured out that your tiny handbag somehow manages to hold bags and bags of theatre contraband that you could easily smuggle inside. Trail mix, crackers, cookies, string cheese, bottles of water, fruit snacks, sub sandwiches, key lime pies, throw it all in there, moms and dads. Pay for treats at the counter? NOT THIS TIME, Regal Cinemas. NOT. THIS TIME.


5. The more time you spend seeking out a seat without someone behind you that appears to be eating (because maybe you didn’t want to eat or maybe the noise bothers you, or whatever),the more likely someone will be to walk in at the last second with crinkly candy wrappers and a drum of popcorn.


6. If you’re watching a film in 3D, some kid will always try and grab stuff that’s ‘floating’ on the screen. Actually, most kids will.


7. Murphy’s Law: If you’ve managed to remember to have YOUR kids go to the bathroom before the movie starts, you will inexplicably be seated in the middle of a row filled only with children whose bladders have not been emptied in the past 48 hours. Wear closed toed shoes.


8. Your child will want an ICEE. They will get one-and-a-half sips of liquid, then they will loudly suck air bubbles through a straw for the rest of the movie while you shush them, because that’s what good parents do.


9. The younger the child, the more questions they will ask during the movie. You’ll nod at everything just to get them to stop asking questions. You have no idea what they’re asking.


10. No matter how good or how bad the movie was that you JUST saw, your child will declare it THE BEST MOVIE EVAR and talk about it incessantly for the rest of the night. There will also be a pop quiz on your favorite and least favorite parts of the movie so do yourself a favor and take good mental notes.

Also, feel like chattin’? Come talk with me on Facebook and Twitter!

What MY ‘family rules’ sign would say

They’re EVERYwhere: those ‘family rules’ signs that people hang in their homes. They’re totally adorable and full of inspirational family ‘rules’ for a happy home. You’ll see them gracing the Pottery Barn catalog and in every Etsy shop imaginable. They look something like this:

no, this would not work

i’d need just a few slight moderations

They’re super cute. And nice. I’d like one for my house. But I’ve realized that mine would need to be slightly more realistic because I’ve got a full-time job, kids and pets, and sometimes I lose my temper, and there’s usually a blender piece in the sink waiting for someone (me, always me) to clean it out that’s going to frustrate me later, and I’m just not that perfect. Here’s what mine would read:

  • I’ll try not to Yell At You when we have 3 minutes to get out the door to catch the school bus and your homework isn’t done and I can’t find my keys
  • Enjoy Mealtime. And yes, sometimes Nutella toast is a perfectly balanced dinner option
  • Go Outside and Play. And by that, I don’t mean play a video game about being outdoors
  • Find your overdue library books By Yourself (they are probably still in the car from when we checked them out 6 weeks ago)
  • Look at Each Other. Put the phone down. Stop texting so much. This goes for Mom, too.
  • Make Time For Each Other, unless you want to play with monster trucks again, in which case, Have Lots Of Fun Playing Trucks By Yourself While I Read My Awesome Book 
  • I don’t want to do your laundry anymore but I do, so please Hug Me Often 
  • Kiss Each Other unless one of you just ate tuna fish
  • You don’t need this sign to know that I Love You, because you’ll hear it from me all the time

4 good things about getting stuck in a train station

Backstory: My son and I made a quick (well, sort of) train trip from Seattle to Portland to attend the Portland Auto Show (he’s a big car fanatic). It was snowing. A lot. We got stuck. For a long time. Both ways. Here’s what I learned…
4. You eventually have to talk to people. I met a number of people, but my favorite was a cool man who lives on top of a hill in the Portland area. He showed me video he took from his house that morning with over a foot of snow. Then he showed me a video of his dog (a standard poodle). His youngest daughter’s name is Meredith and he plays doubles tennis. He took a lot of phone calls that had nothing to do with work, and I’m pretty sure he’s a ladies’ man. He taught me about taking the MAX rail and why nobody took the tickets I’d purchased (random spot-check, who knew?). He listened to my son talk about cars. We watched each other’s bags for bathroom breaks. When my son left his sunglasses sitting on a bench, this guy came to find us to hand them to him. And, when the train finally came, we bumped into each other twice on board and it felt like this, both times:


I’ll never forget that guy’s face, he had a GREAT smile.

3. You see other people build new connections. Like the young guy standing in line in front of the young woman. The guy is teaching English to college students in China (he’s from Eugene, Oregon). The woman is from China. They had a lot to talk about. I found it fascinating. On the train itself, a pair behind me turned out to not have known each other prior to the train ride (they had been on the train long before we boarded, and had also been ‘stuck’ and delayed many times). A young guy and girl, college aged, talking about everything from friendships to relationships to religion…pretty incredible. In our digitized, phones-in-faces world, to be witness to (and to experience myself) real, in-person new connections is a beautiful thing. We should do more of that, minus the being stranded part. Less phones in faces. More smiling, more talking to each other. More meeting people. It feels good.

people who are not meeting people

people who are not meeting people

2. People bond over tough times. We were stuck in a train station for 5 hours together due to snow and ice. And then again for another hour or more on the train before it started moving. And then it moved about 100 feet before stalling again due to a frozen switch that needed to be manually dug out and adjusted. People could have been terribly cranky. My son and I made our way down to the bistro cart to get something to eat, and a bunch of riders had gathered. We talked about wine. We joked about turning this whole disaster into a party train. By the time I’d collected a hot dog for my kid and a vodka cranberry for me, I wasn’t so mad after all. Being alone with my frustration would have certainly led to a terrible mood, but communing – and alcohol – saved the day.


1. You get to teach your kids that sometimes things don’t work out the way you planned, and show them how to deal. Now granted, you may not always be the picture of perfect parenting. Like when you almost break down in tears at the bus stop when the machine won’t take your money (because it’s broken, but how would you know that? You haven’t taken a bus in 20 years and this isn’t even your city) and the bus is leaving the station and you have no idea which one to get on, and it’s snowing and you wore the wrong boots. Never mind that! Because guess what. You figured it out. You spied that other ticket machine. And it worked. And you asked that guy which bus to take, and he told you. And you grabbed your kid’s hand and got on that bus and you asked some riders which stop to take, and none of them happened to speak English, but thankfully someone overheard you and came over and told you what to do. And you and your kiddo got off the bus. And you kind of saw what you thought was the train station and walked toward it but in the snow, couldn’t find the entrance, so you asked a nice couple if they knew, and they were in town from Arizona looking for apartments and also unsure so you all figured it out together. All four of you blazed into that train station triumphantly, stomping snow off your boots and wishing each other well. You eventually boarded a train. You made blankets out of jackets and pillows out of backpacks. You got off a train at 4am to a garage that had been closed since 5pm, figured out how to get your car out, and drove home in even more snow and ice to your cozy bed. You didn’t give up. And, your kid will never forget it.