Our cars are fighting.

“I, Julie, take you, Scott, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law, and this is my solemn vow.”

SIGH.

No, we’re good. We’re good. We’ve been through it all – better, worse, worse than that, rich, poor, ramen-noodle poor, the man-flu, and we’ve peaked in health and athletic ability.

I thought we merged our assets beautifully, really. Walk into our home and you’ll see, well, Scott and me. You’ll see deer high up on the wall. You’ll also see flowers, fluffy blankets and candles. It smells like femininity and maybe a waft of burnt dinner. Scott has his own office with a sliding barn wood door. The wood is from a barn built in 1910. I have a writing room with my own fireplace. There’s a giant white marlin on the wall. I caught that. Words are everywhere.

We built this home from dirt. We intertwined each other into it. It’s a solid home. It’s a lovely home. The only nook where you’ll find two separate lives is the garage.

SIGH. Until death do us part.

Merge these assets into one: “His car” and “her car.”

A Ford F-150 and a Honda Accord.

Scott’s car and my car – they’re not even dating. They hate each other. Scott and I are in the market for a car. It won’t be the only car but for the sake of making a long story short – it will be an equally shared car. The Ford and Honda need to go. 

My car thinks his car has a bad case of truck syndrome. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. That engine roaring behind you in your rearview. The dominating force *asshole* on the open road. You better move over or you may be adding yourself to those dents and scratches that make up Scott’s car battle wounds.

Vehicle.

I apologize. His vehicle.  Scott doesn’t drive a car. He drives a vehicle. How dare I call such a man-made-God-fearing-machine a car. 

My car doesn’t understand his vehicle. And Scott’s vehicle doesn’t understand my car. There’s not a whole lot to understand about a dependable car like a Honda Accord. It blends in. Scott’s legs spread eagle on the dash is the only thing that would ever call attention to a Honda Accord. Scott’s car nicknamed my car “duck butter.”

In order to understand Scott’s vehicle and my car, you need to go back. Way back. Circa 1997 when my dad took me to a cemetery to learn how to drive because, “Well, you can’t kill anyone here. They’re already dead. Just don’t kill your old man.”

I learned how to drive in a cemetery in a 1995 Chevy Cavalier. It was turquoise and adorable. And my dad is alive and well, thank you. I moved on to a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Coupe; a 2005 Land Rover LR2; and now a 2014 Honda Accord. The only complaint I have is the bike handle scrapes down the side. Even though my kids are out of carseats, they’re still a pain in my ass.

Scott’s vehicle history – oh, let’s see. A small, purple truck; a white Chevy Camaro with orange stripes. You could hear the engine from miles away; this truck –

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and now his current truck, a 2013 Ford F150. It’s beat up. He jackknifed the side with a trailer. It smells like something died in it because it is also a deer hearse.

How do you merge a Ford F-150 and a Honda Accord? Scott needs power, off-road abilities and space. I need something that won’t leave me curb checking all over town. Oh, and large vehicles make me park in two parking spots because I, too, get truck syndrome. I like low to the ground and sporty. 

I figured it out – a Jeep Wrangler.

Scott told me I’m out of my mind (so?), they’re a waste of money (what car isn’t?) and I’ll kill the family with those crash test ratings (the 2017 model improved, Scott). My friend, Christine, also told me to knock off the Jeep Wrangler talk because it shows the world I’m having a midlife crisis. I’m 35. No midlife crisis. Mark my words – Christine will be taking selfies in my Jeep on our joy rides.

Feel the wind in your face, Christine!

I decided on red. Why not? It will go with my red lipstick that I need to steal back from Kate. It can pull a trailer, I think. It can handle the off-roads on the farm. And there goes Scott! Giving his dead deer a final adventure in a Jeep Wrangler! What a hearse!

I’m losing this battle. Scott doesn’t think my Jeep jokes are funny. They’re not jokes. I’m serious.

SIGH.

How do you merge a Ford F-150 and a Honda Accord?

___________

Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Maybe I’ll post our car shopping pictures. Or maybe you’ll see me in a Jeep.

 

Oh Emma, Oh Kate.

Oh Emma, Oh Kate is a series of funny things my kids say. Emma is 10 and Kate is 7. 

__________

Me: Let me pull your tooth out.

Kate: Let me pop that zit on your back.

__________

Me: Why won’t you play softball this summer? You’d be so good!

Kate: Because I’ll probably have a weird named team.

__________

I picked up the girls from school on the day Emma went to school with no braces.

Me: Hey Emma! Did you show your class your smile?

Emma: Yeah, everyone noticed and were like, “whoa.”

Kate: Any boys kiss you?

Me: KATE.

Kate: What? She looks prettier.

Me: Knock it off. She’s always pretty.

Kate: I know she’ll have boys kissing her before boys kiss me. (sighs)

__________

In the car.

Me: Girls, you ready for sunny and 75 this weekend?! Let’s lay out on the driveway and feel the warm sun.

Emma: YEAH!!

Kate: (rolls down window and sticks her head out) BIKINIS AND SUMMA SUMMAAAAAA! WOOOOOOOO!

__________

Me: Come on, Kate. Wake up.

I pulled Kate up, out of bed.

Kate: UGH! JULIE BUG! NO!

__________

Me: STOP! FIGHTING! I can’t take it!!

I walked into Kate’s bathroom. She was staring at me by looking through the mirror while she brushed her teeth. She rinses her toothbrush, flings the toothbrush water at the mirror.

Me: WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!

Kate: Flinging water at you.

Me: Grounded.

Kate: Worth it. Hair flip. (flips hair)

__________

Kate: I’m on a sugar hiiiiigh!

Emma: Kate, stop being weird.

Kate: Fine. I’m going sugar freeeee!

Emma: Stop being more weird.

__________

Emma walked in my bedroom.

Me: Hey, Em.

Emma: I forgot what I was going to say. Hold on.

Emma walked out then walked back in.

Emma: Ok, I remembered.

__________

Kate: I’m the princess of the family. And Emma is the bully.

Emma: STOP, KATE!

Kate: It’s true.

Emma: STOP IT!

Me: Stop. Both of you. If we were royalty, your dad and I would be the heirs to be king and queen on both sides of the family since we’re both first born. That means, Emma – you would be the next queen. Kate would only be queen if Emma were to die before having children.

Scott: Julie.

Me: It’s true.

Emma: HA! Kate, I’m the next queen. That means I’m more powerful than you!

Kate: I’M STILL THE PRINCESS. You’re still the bully.

__________

Kate: Mom, you’re my BFF.

Me: Really?! Awwww!

Kate: Big fat fart.

__________

Emma borrowed my phone to text Scott while he was in Florida.

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__________

Kate: Can I open the soup package?

Me: No, let me get scissors. You’ll open it and it will fall all over the floor.

Kate: That’s how normal people do it.

__________

I played the classic rock station on Pandora while I straightened Emma’s hair. “Carry On Wayward Son” started playing.

Me: Who is singing this?

Emma: Hmmmm…

Me: I’ll give you a hint. It’s a state.

Emma: America.

Me: A STATE.

Emma: California? Florida? New York?

Me: No. Another hint: it starts with a K.

Emma: Kentucky!

Me: IT’S THE STATE YOU LIVE IN.

Emma: Oh! Kansas!

__________

Me: Let’s take a picture.

Kate: I’m a little sensitive when it come to taking pictures. No, thanks.

Me: Where did you hear that? Smile.

Kate: Pay me $1 per picture with smile.

__________

Me: OH MY GOSH, KATE!  What happened to your legs? You’re bleeding all down your legs!

Kate: Ran through a rose bush. Kinda hurt so I just kept running through it. I don’t care. It’s just blood.

Me: You ran through a rose bush.

Kate: What do you want me to do? Fly over it?

__________

Me: What should I caption this picture of Emma and daddy?

Kate: What’s a caption?

Me: When you write a sentence or two, explaining the picture.

Kate: Oh. Hm, well how about “Emma’s dad calls Emma ‘boo’ sometimes as a nickname. But one day, he accidentally called her ‘boobs’ and Emma hates it.

__________

Kate: You know how Grandma calls everyone’s name with an “I-E” at the end of it? Like Katie, Scottie, Emmie….

Me: Yeah.

Kate: What if she called Emma’s new nickname with an “I-E”?

Emma: Kate, what are you talking about? What nickname?

Me: KATE.

Kate: Boobs. Boobie. Hey Boobie!

Emma: STOP IT, KATE!

__________

Me: You smell like a Thin Mint.

Kate: I didn’t eat five.

__________

I was listening to the radio after I picked up the girls from school.

Emma: What are they talking about?

Me: Shoplifting. Who do you think is more likely to shoplift, men or women? Like, steal something from a store without paying.

Emma: Boys!

Kate: Girls. Because they can sneak out like, hanging on the ceiling, doing cartwheels and flips and stuff.

__________

I picked up sushi to-go with Kate. We had to wait for our order. Kate picked up a magazine.

Kate: How do you be on the cover of a magazine?

Me: Well, depends on the magazine.

Kate: What about this magazine?

Me: It looks like it’s a local business. So this flower business paid the magazine money to have the owner be on the cover in this issue.

Kate: I want to be on a cover.

Me: Better have some money if you want to be on this magazine’s cover.

Kate: I’ll just take yours.

__________

Kate handed me a mint from the sushi restaurant.

Kate: I think it’s a fruit flavor.

Me: Looks like blueberry from wrapper.

I put the mint in my mouth.

Me: Tastes like…it tastes like wine? Weird.

Kate: Lemme try one. No, not wine. It tastes like cranberry juice.

__________

I helped Kate with homework.

Me: Ok, so what is the opposite of south?

Kate: West.

Me: Not south, but…

Kate: East.

Me: Down is south. Up is….

Kate: West! Southeast! East West!

__________

Scott was in bed with Kate, saying goodnight. The lights were off and it was pitch black. Kate started giggling.

Scott: Shhhhhh

Kate: You shhhhhh. I’m pushing my nostrils up. Shhhhhh

__________

Me: You’re so sloppy.

Kate: Cool.

__________

I was writing on my laptop at the kitchen counter. I feel my ponytail being pulled back.

Me: Ow!

Kate: Thanks for the ponytail holder.

__________

My niece, Evelyn (almost 4): I like your face and your braids in your hair.

__________

My nephew, Ben (age 3): Dad, are you my uncle?

My brother-in-law, Mark: I’m your dad.

Ben: Uncle Scott is my uncle?

Mark: Yes.

Ben: I miss my uncle.

___________

Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

 

Relax.

It’s called chivalry.

A gentleman should always hold the door open for a lady.

A gentleman should offer his jacket if a lady gets cold.

Is chivalry dead? Not unless the woman kills it. I can open the door myself, thank you. 

The person that gets to the door first should hold the door open for the following person.

Regardless of gender, anyone that wants to give up their coat for a someone that is cold is simply a nice person. Or maybe they’re just hot.

It’s a new era. The 2017 etiquette for men has new rules.

One rule, really.

Flowers are always nice.

No, forget the flowers.

The one rule: never say the word relax. 

I take that back – you can say relax to the brand new mother of your child when you hand her a gift certificate to a spa. “Here, you’ve been up all night. Go relax.”

You can say it on the beach as the waves pull your lover’s feet into the ocean. “You want to grab a slice of pizza and relax on the beach?”

You can say it inside a hot tub in the mountains as you hand your lady a glass of wine. “Here, I thought this would be even more relaxing.”

Hell, I don’t care, you can say it while you load up the kids in the car on a trip to the grocery store on your own. “I’ll run to Target with the kids. Sit here and relax.”

But the second you have an angry woman in front of you – you better start agreeing with whatever nonsense she’s spitting at you. Agree and talk about it later. Trust me. You do NOT – I repeat – you DO NOT utter the word RELAX. See also CALM DOWN. If you include the arms motioning downward, they will be kicked back up.

I will light the town on fire and tell a female cop I discovered arson because I was told to RE-LAX. Oh, hell no. Where’s my torch.

This isn’t a post about Scott and me. This is a post about a little girl finding womanhood.

Scott told Kate to relax.

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This adorable photo from the Daddy/Daughter dance shows a reserved 5th grader and her father. And then there’s the 2nd grader, chugging her childhood down her throat because the same father told her to relax.

Kate wasn’t even angry at Scott when it all started. She stomped in our room that morning and showed up next to my side of the bed with her arms crossed.

Kate: I’m mad at Emma.

Me: Just cuddle with us and ignore her.

Kate: No! Mom! But Emma…

Scott: JUST RELAX, KATE.

I felt a fury ignite in my stomach. It passed.

Kate: NO, DADDY! THEN I’M NOT GOING TO THE DANCE WITH YOU TONIGHT!

Scott: Fine, I’ll go with Emma.

Kate: I don’t care. You won’t be going with ME.

Kate stomped out of the room.

Scott: What happened to her?

Me: You told her to relax when she was angry. She’s me now.

Kate felt the fire inside her at age seven. It’s the fire every woman feels when a man tells her to “relax” or “calm down.”

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I had a chat with Kate woman-to-woman. I reminded her he did get her a corsage for the evening. Flowers are always nice. And he would love to have a date on each arm for the night. She must forgive his words. 

She agreed to go to dinner and the dance with Scott.

It’s called chivalry.

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Next year, she’s flipping off the camera.

___________

Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Scott quit the PTA.

The Pinterest Mom.

Damn her.

She has the best school party games. She has the best school party crafts. No peanut butter allowed? That’s not a problem because she knows exploding slime will be better than a small package of peanut M&Ms. The teachers adore her. The polite moms roll their eyes behind her back. But her friends will say it out loud in front of her –

“Julie’s basically the adorable parent equivalent of teacher’s class pet.”

I didn’t mean to become the Pinterest mom. It just happened.

You guys, it’s not hard to be the Pinterest mom when all you have to do is steal ideas from Pinterest. I never add my own projects. I just steal. I can’t possibly be teacher’s parent pet. My kids don’t make straight As and they’re in elementary school.

I mean, if you were a kid at your class Valentine’s Day party craft table – would you rather color a coloring page or chisel a Cupid’s arrow from a stick I collected from my backyard? I’m kidding. We didn’t chisel Cupid’s arrow.

I should pin that. 

I was in charge of bringing a craft to Kate’s Valentine’s class party. I decided on No-Sew Felt Heart Pillows.

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Boom. Easy. Tie knots. Stuff. Tie knots again. Too girly for the boys? Nope – I’ll buy camo print felt. Stuff it, kids.

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That one heart took me two hours.

I asked Scott for help.

Me: Will you help me with these felt hearts? Just cut little snips around the edge and you knot. Like this.

Scott: Sure.

Scott cut two hearts.

Scott: Where’s the box cutters? These scissors are dull.

Scott opened the Hobby Lobby bag and pulled out the receipt.

Me: Oh, you don’t need to look in….

Scott: Fifty dollars!

Shit.

Me: Actually, it’s $40. The other $10 is for Kate’s school project.

Scott: Does the school pay you back?

Me: Are you serious?

Scott: Do the parents pay you back?

Me: Um, where have you been the past six years? No. The craft person is financially responsible for the craft. Especially since I’m a stay-at-home mom. Even though I’m really a work-from-home mom.

Scott: That makes no sense.

Me: Oh, you know. It’s easier for a stay-at-home mom to do these type of things than the moms that work outside the home.

Scott: Well that’s bullshit. So just because you’re at home, you have to pay? What the hell?

Me: I can’t believe you are just now realizing this. I volunteered, ok? Just help me. Please. Kate’s your kid too.

Don’t tell him this will take two hours for one pillow. Don’t tell him this will take two hours for one pillow.

It took Scott ten minutes to finish two ties.

Scott: Like this?

Me: Yep.

Scott: Oh, hell no.

Me: You’ll get a groove. Just keep going. They’ll be cute.

Scott: This is bullshit. How many of these do we have to do?

Me: Well, I got enough for 30 kids. I think 22 or 23. I’ll have to ask Kate.

We continued knotting for an hour.

Me: So you’ll get to the middle like this and leave the rest for the kids to finish and stuff.

Scott: So you want the kids to knot half a heart.

Me: Yeah, but we only have about six minutes with the stations.

Scott: Well, that ain’t happening. It took me an hour to do half a heart.

Me: Your fingers are chubby, maybe.

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Scott: This is a horrible project.

Me: It looked cute on Pinterest. I can’t return the felt. I cut all 60 hearts.

Scott: Are you kidding me?!

Me: I’m a good room mom! These are adorable!

Scott: No wonder Cody said you’re the teacher’s parent pet. You’re a teacher’s dream mom.

Me: No, I’m not! It’s Pinterest! Pinterest is the pet. And this is turning into my first Pinterest fail.

Scott: THANK YOU. FAILING. CORRECT.

Me: I just want the kids to have a good party. I remember making the cutest crafts when I was a kid. Ornaments, hand print projects, bird feeders…

Scott: I don’t remember any of my class parties. The kids will be fine.

Me: Fine, room dad. What should my craft be?

Scott: Let them sit at the table and talk to each other.

Me: That’s a terrible idea.

Scott: Ok, take the kids on a field trip outside and first person to find a heart-shaped cloud wins a piece of candy.

Me: Scott.

Scott: Throw a bunch of candy on the table and tell them every man for themselves.

Me: Come on.

Scott: Tell them to color a heart on their hand. We’re not paying for another craft.

Me: I said I would help Cody. She’s the room mom. I don’t mind. I want the kids to have fun.

Scott: You tell those other lazy-ass parents to step up and help. You’re not doing this anymore.

Me: Oh, they’ll love that psycho email. “Hey! It’s Julie! Kate’s mom. You guys are a bunch of lazy-asses. Screw all of you for not volunteering the craft. Now your kid will look for a heart-shaped cloud, color a heart on their hand and then attack classmates for candy thrown on the table.”

Scott: Then tell the teachers to do their jobs. I’ll send an email. I don’t care.

I gasped.

Me: WHOA! WHOA. Ok, this is NOT the teacher’s responsibility. The parents have always organized the class parties, like, for the past 30 years. You can’t say a word to the teacher.

Scott: See? Teacher’s parent pet. You’re a Pinterest mom. Nope. I’m done.

I ended up drawing a tree with bare limbs on a canvas. The kids inked their fingerprints to fill in the leaves of the tree. My sister wrote the teacher’s name on the bottom in calligraphy. I purchased the canvas and ink at an undisclosed price in fear of Scott reading this.

The class finished the craft.

And Scott quit the PTA.

___________

Wait, don’t go! Find me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

I had another blog post for today.

I had another blog post for today.

I can’t post it because I’m not in the mood to laugh with others. It would be a fake laugh. I started a blog post last night. It was about Scott quitting the school PTA.

That’s when Scott got the call.

Scott: WHAT!

I stopped typing. My stomach dropped. Something bad happened. I could hear the shock and sadness in Scott’s voice. I stared at Scott. Scott caught the questions in my eyes.

Scott: Chris Mentzel passed away suddenly. Maybe heart attack.

Me: WHAT!

Scott hung up the phone.

Me: What? We just hung out with him. No, he didn’t.

Scott: That’s all Matt said. Oh wow. I just want to text Chris…ask if this…if this is for real.

Me: We just saw him at happy hour last week. He sat across from us. I can still hear his voice. There’s no way. He was here. Here. In front of me. I can touch him.

Scott: This doesn’t make any sense.

Me: He was so fit! He played hockey. No, this isn’t right. What is he, like, 32 or something?

Scott: But there’s nothing on his Facebook.

Me: I’m looking too. His Facebook looks normal? There’s no way.

We scrolled through his pictures. Hockey photos. Weddings with suits and beer. Happy hours. Work events. The pictures showed Chris talking and laughing. He smiled for selfies. His laugh pierced the air. His voice deep.

It hit us.

Scott teared up. We were flipping through photos of a complete life. 

Me: I don’t understand…

Scott: I texted him a few days ago. He was fine. I don’t get it. 

Me: Chris joked with Hunter about Emma’s height when we bowled with him. He said she’s going to be taller than him. And Kate wouldn’t say hi to him so he just laughed and waved. He was just here in front of us.

I shut my eyes. I put myself back in the bowling alley. There he was.

Me: I stood up and hugged him goodbye. He left the bowling alley before we did, remember?

I hugged Chris Mentzel goodbye.

He left before we did.

Oh Emma, Oh Kate.

Oh Emma, Oh Kate is a series of funny things my kids say. Emma is 10 and Kate is 7. 

__________

Me: Good night, Kate.

Kate: Night, Becky.

Me: BECKY?!

Kate: Look at her butt, Becky.

__________

Kate: What are you doing?

Me: Taking down your Christmas lights in your bedroom window. It’s not Christmas anymore.

Kate: What makes a string of pretty lights, Christmas lights?

__________

The girls started crossing their eyes at each other.

Me: Gross! Stop.

Scott: Did you know if you cross your eyes for a long time, they’ll stay that way?

Emma: That’s not true. That’s just something parents say to their kids.

Kate: Yeah, dad. Remember that picture of you holding a beer and crossing your eyes. They’re not stuck.

__________

Kate: How do you spell, “Joe’s?”

Me: G-O-E-S.

Emma: G?!

Me: Oh, sorry. J-O-E-S.

Emma: Way to go, writer.

__________

Emma: Did you know farts stink because of the bacteria in your butt?

__________

Kate received a Garmin Vivofit, Jr. for Christmas. It’s a watch that tracks her activity and sleep levels. It also allows me to give her virtual “coins” for doing chores.

Me: So when you do a chore on my list, let me know and I’ll give you a coin.

Kate: Ok, got it. And what if I lie to you?

__________

Me: Kate, take a shower. Don’t be the stinky kid at school tomorrow.

Kate: I like being the stinky kid.

Me: Why would you want to be the kid that stinks?

Kate: It means I had fun.

__________

I was flipping through radio stations in the car. “Drunk on a Plane” starts playing.

Emma: STOP!

Me: This song?

Emma: I love this song.

__________

Me: Kate, will you shovel the driveway?

Kate: Emma said she has a fun way of shoveling.

Me: How?

Kate: She puts me on the shovel and pushes the snow up on me.

__________

Me: Do you want ketchup or mustard on your hot dog?

Kate: What do you think?

Me: I don’t know.

Kate: You just said the answer. N-O.

__________

Kate gave us a coupon book of “free chores” for Christmas.

Scott: Let me get my coupon book. I’m going to use a coupon tonight.  Let’s see…put dishes away, 10-minute back rub, take trash out, which one do I want to use…

Kate: Only one.

Scott: What does this say? Free 30 minutes playing on daddy’s phone?

Kate: I made myself a coupon.

__________

Me: KATE. I’M YOUR MOTHER AND YOU LISTEN TO ME.

Kate: JULIE. I’M YOUR DAUGHTER AND YOU LISTEN TO ME.

__________

Kate: I want Ramen noodles.

Me: No, enough Ramen. It’s not good for you. There’s a lot of salt in it.

Emma: Mom, your shirt says Salt Life.

__________

Kate gets in the car after school.

Kate: Ah, I love breaking rules.

__________

We played Monopoly Jr. one night.

Me: Ok, whoever wins this game wins a real dollar.

Kate: YAY! From Emma’s piggy bank?

__________

Kate made a pretend “doggy daycare” shop.

Me: It’s 8:30! Time to go to bed!

Kate: Nope, sorry. My shop doesn’t close until 9. I gotta work.

__________

I picked up the girls from school.

Kate: There’s a boy in my class that went on a cruise with his family.

Me: That’s nice.

Kate: He got a haircut on the ship.

Me: Yeah, cruise ships have cool little places like that. It’s like a small town.

Kate: I need a haircut.

Me: Please don’t.

Kate: On a cruise ship.

__________

Kate: What’s a weenie?

Me: Why?

Kate: Heard it at school.

Me: I don’t know.

Kate: Daddy has one, doesn’t he?

__________

Me: Goodnight, Kate.

Kate: Night, you sloth.

__________

I gave the girls their backpacks before we walked out the door.

Me: You two both wear your backpacks on both shoulders.

Emma: What?

Me: I used to wear one strap over one shoulder. Like this.

Emma: Mom, only kids who think they’re cool do that.

Kate: Mom! Don’t you want your back to be supported? What’s wrong with you?

__________

I dropped Kate and Emma off at their Nana and Papa’s house. It was dark. Kate got out of the car first. She ran to the front of the garage door so the headlights shined on her. She put her sunglasses on, did a shimmy, gave me a peace sign and struts to the front door.

Me: WHAT?!

Emma: Mom. Don’t you know what kind of teenager she’s going be?

__________

Me: Wake up!

Kate moans in bed.

Me: Wake up! I told you! Should have went to bed earlier last night.

Kate sits up in bed, eyes still shut, and pushes me off the bed.

__________

Emma: Can I go over my friend’s house after school? It was her birthday at school and she has extra popsicles. She said we could eat the rest at her house.

Me: Sure. What kind of popsicles?

Emma: Uh, the kind that stains my shirt really bad right here.

 

__________

Emma: We read a Scholastic magazine in class today. At the end, there’s a question that makes you think about the article.

Me: What was the question?

Emma: Is it ok for parents to put their kid’s pictures on Facebook or Instagram without the kid’s permission?

Me: Hm. What do you think about that?

Emma: I think it’s ok for parents to do that. I like it when you post my picture or write about me.

Kate: I don’t. Let me see it first.

Me: Ok, here’s another question – at what age does a child have the right to say no? When a baby is born, almost every parent I know will post a picture of the baby because they’re proud. A baby or toddler doesn’t have an opinion. What if a pre-schooler screams, “NO!” to everything? What age should a parent take their request seriously?

Emma: Hm, maybe when the kid can read?

Kate: TAKE OFF MY BABY PICTURES, MOM!

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I judged a mom today.

I judged a mom today.

I did. I judged another mother.

Treat others how you want to be treated.

Don’t judge a person before you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Yeah, I know. I still did it. My jaw dropped. She probably heard my teeth slam together in an effort not to show my judgement. I didn’t confront her. I didn’t say a word. She wasn’t harming her daughter in any way I could see – other than her tween daughter will hate her in a few years and leave as soon as she’s 18.

I’m judging again. I’ll stop.

I took Emma to the orthodontist.

Some parents sit in the receptionists’ waiting area and some sit in the extra chair provided near the dental chair. I like to sit with Emma and discuss where we should play hooky before taking her back to school.

The row of dental chairs are separated by a free-standing, frosted glass window. There is no privacy. The orthodontist made her rounds. She examined the patient next to Emma.

Orthodontist: Oh! Look how nicely these are coming along.

Mom: Uh, huh. Can we take them off now?

Orthodontist: Oh, she still needs more time. We still need to fix her bite and then we’ll fine tune.

Mom: Can you take them off, please?

Orthodontist: We never hold anyone hostage with braces. But I am not recommending this. Her treatment is not complete.

Mom: Yes, I know. I would like my daughter to have an imperfect smile. You know? I don’t want her to have perfectly straight teeth. It shows character if her teeth are not perfect.

I looked at Emma. My mouth dropped. I tipped back in my chair to get a better look at the mom and daughter.

Emma: (whispers) Mom, stop!

Me: I want to see them.

Emma: How old is the girl?

Me: Your age? Maybe a little younger?

The daughter stared at her hands in her lap while her mom argued with the orthodontist.

Mom: I never wanted her teeth to be straight. I just want them almost straight.

Orthodontist: We can take them off today if this is what you and your daughter wish. Please understand that the price doesn’t change, whether you paid in full or are making payments.

Mom: Yes, I know. Please remove them.

If I thought this was best for my daughter and this was something my daughter wanted, by all means, judge me. Walk in my shoes. Write about me on your blog.

I have the feeling this wasn’t the daughter’s wish.

How long does a parent have control over how their child looks? Even if the daughter wanted straight teeth, she probably wasn’t paying for the braces herself. Braces are a luxury, in most cases. I’m not sure the daughter ever had a say at all.

A parent can somewhat control how a child looks when they’re young. A baby is a little doll you can dress up even if the doll keeps you up all night, shoots yellow poop up the back of the cute outfit you bought from Target, and rips out every hair bow you place on her head. And Emma still won’t let me style her gorgeous curls.

When does a parent cross the line? Deciding where bones should be – teeth are bones, right? Straight but not too straight teeth? 

I’m not the greatest mom. I yell at my kids in public. I’m sure I’ve put them in danger by road-raging my way to the grocery store. I rarely watch any gymnastics practice. I’m cool with making chocolate chip cookies for dinner when Scott is out of town. I show my daughter it’s ok to eavesdrop and judge others. I don’t want to have more kids because, well, I’m just done. 

Emma: Mom?

Me: Yeah, Em.

Emma: Thanks for letting me keep my braces on. I’m glad you’re not like that other mom. You’re the best.

I judged a mom today because sometimes you need a shot of adrenaline in the arm to let you know you’re doing ok.

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The Book of Heroes.

Kate: What’s a hero, um. A hero-ings. Book of hero-ings?

Me: Let me see that. Book of Heroines. It’s a woman hero. Wait, that doesn’t make sense. It’s someone that…let me think. It’s a brave woman. A woman you admire or look up to.

Kate: Do you have one?

Me: A hero or heroine? Teachers used to ask me this when I was little. Hm, I never had one. I was never into superheroes.

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When National Geographic Kids sends you books for your kids to review, you take a selfie. Ok, they didn’t say the selfie part. I’m sure they’re cool with it. 

As a National Geographic Kids Insider, it’s my job to tell you what’s going on at their headquarters in Washington, DC.

Also, don’t judge a book by its cover. Heroes and heroines are not always the super variety.

Kate ran off with The Book of Heroines because girls rule and boys drool, mom. You’ll hear her review after she runs for President in the year 2044.

The Book of Heroes sat on our kitchen counter.

National Geographic is earth’s great story-teller. National Geographic turns to the explorers hanging off cliffs, scientists testing the ocean floor, the astronauts circling earth, and the top photographers in the world to help tell earth’s story. And those top photographers don’t take selfies with an iPhone.

National Geographic Kids may have the harder job. Explaining the world to a 7-year-old is more difficult than explaining it to a 35-year-old. The big question every kid wants to know – why?  And they’ll whittle you down until you are trying to explain the meaning of life itself.

Why is he a hero? Why is she a heroine? Why is that person special? Why can’t I be like that person? Why don’t you have a hero? Why is Superman a hero? Why are humans not Superman? Why can’t that be you, mom?

I don’t care what you say, National Geographic Kids is magical. I had no intention of reading those books the day we received them. None. My kids are good readers; they don’t ask me to read a new book to them. I planned on reading the books later. I just had better plans for the night – a date night with Scott and a Redbox movie rental in our living room.

The Book of Heroes sat on the kitchen counter while Scott and I watched “Sully.”

sully

You know Sully. The true story about Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot that performed an emergency landing using the Hudson river as a runway. All 155 passengers and crew survived on that January day in 2009.

The movie scared the hell out of us.

We live in a post 9/11 era where catastrophe on an airplane is not common but the nightmares are. 155 people were told they were going to be making an emergency water landing and to brace for impact. I can’t imagine one person on that plane thinking their story would later be told as a happy ending.

Katie Couric: People call you a hero.

Sully (played by Tom Hanks): I don’t feel like a hero.

Me: He’s totally a hero! How does he not see that?

Scott: He’s a hero. He doesn’t feel like it because he did his job.

Me: Or the airline is screwing with his head by going after him and his decision to land in the river. I can’t think of a bigger hero than Sully. If Tom Hanks ever plays you in a movie, you’re a damn hero.

When the movie ended, I placed the DVD in its container.

What a hero. Hero. Heroes. Heroines. The Book of Heroes.

I glanced at the kitchen table. The book was still there from earlier in the day. Boys drool.

I turned to the index. I was curious. There’s no way National Geographic Kids remembered to include Sully.

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National Geographic Kids remembered to include Sully.

Without ever intending to open the kids’ books, I was reading about Sully, the pilot who kept his cool, because National Geographic Kids is magical to adults too.

 

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Follow National Geographic Kids on Facebook.

Click here to buy The Book of Heroes and The Book of Heroines. See what kind of magic they throw at you.

 

He’s still got it.

Text message from me: Do you think Casey Anthony is hot?

Text message from Scott: Who is that?

I should stop here and tell you that Scott found a job! He’s out of town this week. This leaves me bored and streaming Kansas City’s KMBZ NewsTalk radio while slurping the last of the Ramen noodles.

I’ll stop, Scott. I’ll stop. No more Ramen noodle jokes, I swear. 

Back to the text messages.

Me: Casey Anthony is the mom found “innocent” for murdering her little girl. But she totally murdered her kid. Remember? I think she lives in Orlando.

Scott: Show me a picture. Why are you asking this?

Me: Because this radio guy keeps saying the only reason Casey Anthony’s story went to national news a few years ago is because she’s hot. I just texted the text line and told him, “Uh, Casey Anthony is not hot. She went to national news because she murdered her child.”

Then I needed to make sure.

Cody said she agrees with me – Casey Anthony, not hot.

I need a confirmation from a guy. Is she hot?

caseya

Scott: Half those pictures are from her in jail. Of course she won’t look cute.

Me: Pretty sure top right is her before she killed her kid.

Scott: She’s cute/hot in that pic. But you’re hot/beautiful.

Me: Ha! So I’d go straight to national news if I were ever thrown in jail?

Scott: Not even collecting $200.

And that’s why I love this man. He’s still got it.

And we don’t have to play with Monopoly money anymore.

It wasn’t a Ramen joke, Scott. 

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And that’s how you get kicked out of school.

Refresh.

Hold on, I’ve been refreshing my email since I got home.

I’m waiting on an email from the school principal.

By now, she’s probably been notified about the incident after school.

Refresh.

You know when the class “trouble-maker” does something bad and the whole class gets punished for it? I’m waiting for a new school rule to be announced to punish other families.

Refresh.

No, Emma and Kate are good kids. They don’t listen to Scott and me but they somehow listen to their teachers. But we are the Burtons and I swear this shit only happens to me.

Stella shot up to legend status after school today.

Legend status. Stella, the big black dog that will stand the test of time. New school rules written because of her heroic entrance onto school grounds. She busted out of the car in the name of her friendly breed, the labrador retriever. No dog has come that close to setting a paw inside the school.

She did it. She put a paw inside the school.

stella

We live far enough away that I drive the kids to and from school.

On the rare occasion, I bring Stella with me to pick up the girls. Today was a rare occasion. I thought she could use the fresh air. The school staff hates me.

Refresh.

The wait in the school car line started out fine. I caught up on some emails, I helped write a rap song for my friend’s baby book, and then I talked to Scott on the phone. Stella waited with her eyes on the prize.

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The school bell rang. Cars inched forward. I made my way to the front of the school. I saw Kate running toward the car with a smile on her face.

Oh, she looks happy today.

“Hi, Kate!”

I waved.

Kate opened the door.

“Oh no, wait!”

Gone. Stella was gone.

A wave of screams pierced the air. Brothers protected their sisters with backpacks. Teachers grabbed their walkie talkies and ran towards Stella. All eyes went to the black blur jumping on kid after kid. Stella’s big tongue crossed over every face she could reach.

I rolled my window down.

“STELL-LAAAAAAAAA! KATE GET STELLA!”

Kids moved in swarms from spot to spot in the grass. Boys dive-bombed Stella. Stella jumped on teachers. Stella knocked down a girl. The girl cried.

“EMMA! GET! STELLA!”

What do I do? I don’t know what to do. Do I get out? Do I…no, I shouldn’t film this.

A teacher walked up and down the sidewalk.

“Whose dog is this?! WHOSE DOG IS THIS!!”

“Oh, um! Hey!”

I slowly lifted my foot off the brake and rolled forward alongside the teacher.

“Mine. She’s mine. I’m sorry! What do I do?! EMMA AND KATE STOP LAUGHING! GET HER! GET HERRRR!! Should I get out?”

“No, stay here and we’ll get her. What’s her name?”

“Stella. I’m so sorry.”

Emma runs by, laughing.

“That’s my dog! STELLL-LAAAAA!”

I could feel the helicopter parents hovering behind me. They had the principal on speed dial.

“Stellaaaa! STELL-LAAAAAA!!”

Oh my God, this is a nightmare. I’m going to get sued for having a dog that loves to play with kids. They’re going to talk about me on News Talk radio tomorrow. They’re going to make a joke about that old movie with the man screaming, “Stella!”

“STELL-LAAAAA!”

Stella ran towards the open door into the school.

“DON’T LET HER IN THE SCHOOL! STOP HER!

NO! I’m going to have to chase her up and down hallways. She’s going to knock over desks and leave paw prints on white boards. They’re going to send my kids to private school after this. We can’t afford that! 

Stella placed one paw inside the door. A teacher grabbed her collar and yanked her back.

Oh, whew. Ok, it’s ok.

Emma hopped in the car. Her face was red and she had the hiccups from laughing so hard. Kate pushed her way in. The teacher dragged Stella back into my car and shut the door.

“Stella wanted to go to school, mom!”

“Please don’t tell your dad.”

The girls called Scott.

Scott knows. I heard the disapproving, “Oh, Julie” over the phone. But it really should be “Oh Stella.”

It crossed my mind that maybe it’s in my head. This probably happens all the time. Many families in the area have friendly labs.

And then Emma’s friend rang our doorbell. Emma asked her if she heard what Stella did after school.

“THAT was STELLA?! Our teacher told us to stay inside because there was a big dog running around!”

And that’s how legends are made.

I’m waiting to read the disapproving email.

Refresh.

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