Category Archives: Family

Christmas Trees and Heartbreak

Part of Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Join us!

A Christmas tree is not just
a Christmas tree
It’s
all
the Christmas trees

It’s my childhood trees —
A blur of colored lights
favorite ornaments that spark imagination

It’s that one time my parents got
a short tree
a short tree!
and put it on a table
I
was
heartbroken

A Christmas tree is my grandma’s trees
always in the same corner of her big house
wrapped with big lights
as we all gathered
well before we all
scattered

It’s my dance class trees-
full of magical ornaments
We’d take turns
dance up to the tree,
choose an ornament to dance as
the ballerina was easy,
but have you ever danced
like a candy cane would dance?
those ornaments, that tree, that studio, that teacher —
those memories live in a tainted haze now
this tends to happen
when 35 years later your dance teacher’s daughter has an affair with your husband
Still.
I do love the memory of that last dance
class before Christmas

It’s been awhile since I’ve
danced
as an ornament – but
I’ve unpacked them a lot
in a flood of memories
Mostly good —

Last year I packed away the 2 snow people in a hot cocoa packet from the year I was married
But I still thought about it when we decorated this year

Lights
make the tree
anyway
Like clothes make the man
Lights and memories

A Christmas tree is
little kids
clip, clip, clipping the tree wrapping off
branches falling
the brittle Christmas tree
poking us as we spun lights off
and needles covered our 100 year-old wood floors
bare branches by the curb
shoving a tree out the window
Well past January
My youngest sobbing, screaming,
“I want Christmas! It’s not over!”
Heartbroken

My tree is artificial now
pre-lit
pieces snapped together by teenagers
The bottom lights broken
by the new kitten
But it shines
like
all the trees

I sit by the tree
in the soft glow of
all the Christmas trees,
lights, ornaments, memories
and the thoughts of heartbreak too

Dr. Pepper & Life Lessons

Part of Slice of Life on Two Writing Teachers

After a doctor’s appointment, you stop for a little treat. A drink, lunch to bring back to school, something.

I don’t know if you have this tradition, or where this tradition started. I do know that when I was little, I’d always get grape gum after the doctor — the kind that has some sort of grape flavored juice that gushes out when you chew the gum.

So today after his appointment, I took my youngest to grab a snack. Dr. Pepper Zero Sugar was the choice drink. Now this makes so much more sense, I think. Doctor appointment equals Dr. Pepper!

Apparently, according to my almost 13-year-old, Dr. Pepper Zero Sugar is the best Dr. Pepper there is. I’m not sure John Green agrees, but I’ll let the opinion stand.

As we walked out of the store, I realized that we could have easily picked up a drink for my older son as well. I had told him we couldn’t when I dropped him off at school this morning, but why?

“I feel bad!” I said to E. “It would have been easy to grab an extra bottle of Dr. Pepper for your brother.”

E and I quickly discussed — the line was long now, and we really needed to get back to school.

“It’s okay,” we both said to each other as we crossed the parking lot. We reminded ourselves that it’s the person who has to go to the doctor’s appointment who gets the special treat. It was fine.

E said, “It’s just our empathy talking. It’s actually okay to not get him one.”

“Plus,” I added, “It’s not our job to make other people happy.”

E looked at me, raised his eyebrows and said, “Well, you might have taken it a little too far there.”

I had to try to explain. “It’s true. It’s not our job to take care of other people. (Aside from how I take care of you and your brother and your sister. That actually is my job.)”

I think I got a sigh from him as we got into the car.

It’s hard to explain this concept to your child, who it actually is your job to take care of!

But, maybe teaching it to my kids will help me get it straight in my own empathetic soul.

It’s not my job to make you happy.
It’s not my job to take care of you.
My needs are just as important as yours.

Say it with me, friends.

It’s not my job to make you happy.
It’s not my job to take care of you.
My needs are just as important as yours.

A surprising night

Part of Slice of Life on Two Writing Teachers

The boys are home early from their dad’s. Thats not the surprise. Neither is their wrestling that starts almost immediately.

It’s a little surprising that they stop when I ask them to, but they also start right up again in the kitchen this time.

I am a little startled to hear the shattering of a wine glass in the sink. But I do live with two teenage boys, and I do enjoy a glass of wine some nights.

Some nights.

We stare at each other for a bit. The silence a few beats longer than usual as I collect my thoughts, take deep breaths and implore them with my eyes to stop the fooling around. No, I’m not exactly sure what parenting technique this is. But it’s been a long week and it’s only Tuesday so it’s all I got, I guess.

“Your shenanigans has got to stop!” I say sternly as I pick up the shards of glass. I mean, what would you say? Plus, I love that word. Shenanigans. I keep going as I start to clean up the shards of glass. “Please unload the dishwasher.”

For some reason this daily request is always a surprise to them. A shock actually. They look at me with utter disappointment.

“I liked it better when you weren’t talking,” A teenager says.

Someone picks up a Halloween cup from the counter refill their water, and is about to take a drink when I realize I hear something in their glass.

“I thought that was ice,” he says. “I almost gulped down that broken glass.”

Suddenly I notice that our new faucet is leaking from right above the nozzle

So weird.

We try to tighten it, but we loosen it instead so the hose gets sucked all the way into the faucet and disappears.

Surprise!

E feels bad and wants to fix it. I want to call the plumber. Well, really I want to call my dad, but he’s out of town and very busy. I think briefly about how I’m supposed to YouTube things like this. That’s what strong single moms do these days, you know.

But in a rare moment of clarity, I realize that I don’t have the brain space to start plumbing projects.

I call the plumber and as it rings and rings, H comes in the kitchen, opens the cabinet under the sink.

“Please don’t mess with it,” I say, imagining two teenagers unscrewing pipes and water shooting out everywhere.

Of course, the plumber doesn’t pick up so I leave a voicemail, struggling to figure out how to explain the situation. What are the real words for this nozzle and this hose, and the long part of the fixture?

“So my faucet was leaking and I tried to tighten it but the hose just…” I get out. Then the hose is pushed up into the faucet, and it just hangs there.

“Actually, my son just got it while I was explaining this. So, um. . . If it doesn’t work, I’ll call you back! Goodbye!”

H looks at me and sighs. “That’s why you don’t call someone before you ask me to fix it, mom.”

And, he’s not wrong. Lessons learned, right?

Ask for the help around you, trust your kids, and always — I mean always make sure you have more than one wine glass.

Algebra

“I’m never going to need this.” E tells me as I help him with his algebra homework. “I mean, nobody is ever going to come up to me and say like, ‘Can you solve this? -2.5 (0.5K+2.4) = -K-5.45.’ Maybe if I was going to be a mathematician, or an engineer. But, I’m never going to need this.”

I sighed and coughed (again), happy to at least be helping with his algebra next to him on the couch, and not 6 feet away like last week.

Homework Help with covid last week? I might have cried a little bit before figuring out I had a white board and remembering that I’m a teacher, even with a fever.

“Well, I don’t know.” I said. “I used to say the same thing. But I now I do need it.”

“For what?” E asks, eyebrows furrowed.

“To help you! Right now! Here you are! I need what I learned in high school algebra!”

He rolled his eyes, and we got back to work.

Poor E: 12 years old, great math brain, plus amazing ability to overthink. He gets the overthinking part from me – so imagine how helpful I am with his algebra homework when we get to parts where we have to use the distributive property with negative variable. I think 3-3x -3 is just 3x, right? Thank goodness he likes to check his work. (I won’t even try to explain our in depth conversations about why -5.45 + 6 = 0.55 and not 0.45. I think I got myself confused with that one, actually.)

For the last few problems, we figured out a good color coding system on the iPad for like terms.

“It’s like our own Kahn Academy!” E said.

“On a academy … Ona academy . . . OnAcademy! Why haven’t I ever thought of that?” I asked. “OnAcademy.com!”

That earned me another eye roll and a sigh. “.org you mean? But, please don’t make that a thing, mom.”

But, it has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? OnAcademy?

Don’t let my high school algebra teacher (or really any math teacher) see our work here please. Thank you.

Pool Time

Part of Slice of Life at Two Writing Teachers

2:30
Clouds
Sun
It’s hot
Clouds
Sun
It’s hot
Let’s go to granny’s pool

3:30
Hot Sun
Cold Ice pops
Boys!
Please stop wrestling in the pool
Feel that sun?
Soak up that Vitamin D!

4:00
Boogie boards, destined for the beach
are tables in the pool for
A cut throat game of
Waterproof cards
Draw 4
The color is Blue
Uno

5:00
Suddenly the clouds disappear
It’s just sun and blue sky
The water is the perfect temperature
It’s time to go
But I’m just going to float for a little longer
Soaking up the warmth
Like Frederick


Nordstrom Rack Angel

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

I’m looking at gold earrings at Nordstrom Rack, wondering if my daughter will want a big statement piece to go with the black dress she just tried on. Actually, I’m wondering where my daughter went – distracted by the crop tops and hoodies, no doubt.

“Oh no!” I hear from behind a jewelry rack. “This ring is stuck on my finger.” A woman walks toward an employee, explaining that she tried a ring on, and it fit, but now it won’t come off.

“The tag is trapping it on my finger!”

She keeps trying to get the ring off, and I can’t ignore her. So I warn her not to tug too much, and I tell her that cold water might help.

“Or Windex,” the employee says and they walk away. I hear the woman tell him that I told her not to tug too much.

My daughter shows up and we look at some earrings together – she does not want big statement earrings but picks a perfect pair of sparkly gold dangles. These earrings will go with whichever dress she ends up wearing next Friday.

The woman walks back into the jewelry section and I have to ask her if she got the ring off and if her finger is okay. I can’t help but be curious. She says her finger is fine.

“I had to make sure you didn’t keep tugging,” I find myself saying to this stranger, “On my honeymoon, my husband tugged so much on his wedding ring that his finger swelled up this much!” I hold my fingers around my now empty ring finger, remembering his ring finger impossibly ballooned, remembering him tugging and tugging on it and lathering it in the bathroom of the Calistoga cottage we were staying at.

“I mean, we are divorced now,” I add quietly because it feels odd to be talking about my honeymoon even to this stranger.

She doesn’t hear me. “Oh my God!” she says. “I mean, wow! Did that like raise any red flags for you?”

I laugh and nod my head. “Nope. It probably should have though!”

“You’re still married, right?” She asks.

“Actually we just divorced this year.” I explain.

“Oh, what happened? Were there signs along the way that it was a mistake?”

I look and notice my daughter still standing behind the earring rack and I snigger.

“Alright!” I say and nod and laugh once again. “You just want to jump right into it!”

I give some sort of explanation that includes how it was of course not a mistake, because how can decades be a mistake and I have my three beautiful children. She talks about her boyfriend who she is set to move in with soon, and become a blended family.

” I love him,” she says, “of course I love him. I just also really love my own space, the bed all to myself, quiet mornings with my coffee…”

“Set up some boundaries right from the start,” I advise like some sort of relationship coach, “plan times that you know you will get to yourself so it doesn’t become an issue later.”

It’s her turn to nod. “That’s a good idea!”

At some point, I introduce my daughter, and explain how she is trying to decide if she should buy this fancy dress, or wear the simple one she already has.

“Oh! Buy it. Definitely buy it. You can always return it later,” is the advice we get, and then, “You know, I’m a spiritual person, religious maybe, you could say, and I really think everything happens for a reason. There’s a plan. Just be patient during this time.”

I assure her I know – when one door opens another one opens and all that (although it’s an awfully long hallway…) and we say goodbye.

My daughter and I walk to the checkout smiling and shaking our heads.

“We’ll most likely never see her again, and we don’t even know her name,” we laugh, “She was like the Nordstrom Rack Angel!”

Prius

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

it’s been raining, and it’s about to rain again
but even dogs who don’t like rain, need walks
so Finn and I walk
down, around, through the park, back up and around
he sniffs the rain-green grass, I sniff the air
the smell of the wood burning stove
from the house on the corner
is my favorite

we cross the quiet street
on a diagonal
avoid a Prius silently coming closer
finn loves the sound of a Prius
it’s the sound of someone coming home
he stops at the corner, head turned
wags his tail
sits at perfect attention
won’t budge when I ask him to
I don’t have the heart
to force him, show him I’m boss

the Prius parks
the man stares at us
Finn’s tail keeps wagging expectantly
I want to explain to the man
my dog thinks you’re his dad
he doesn’t understand that our Prius doesn’t come home anymore
that is why we are standing on the corner
staring at you
and the rain-green grass




What’s in a name?

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

I remember sitting on my fiance’s mom’s bed after her husband’s funeral. I was on a corded landline, talking with my high school drama teacher. It was just weeks before my wedding. She told me she hoped I wouldn’t let the death of my fiance’s dad pressure me into changing my name. I didn’t. I kept my name.

I remember my daughter’s birth. I didn’t want to have a name different from hers. So, I filled out paperwork, updated my license and taught everyone at school to call me by my new title. One of the secretaries never got it right. For years, she would call me over the PA system by my old name. I knew she was talking to me though.

A few weeks ago, after my divorce was officially final, I called the Social Security Office, confused. In order to prove I was a real person, I needed all kinds of paperwork. It seemed silly since somewhere I still have the Social Security card that I got when I was like 12. I wondered why I couldn’t just use that and pretend the last few decades never happened. Instead I had to have my doctor’s office give me paperwork proving who I was. Thankfully the doctor agreed, I am indeed a real person.

Today I opened the mail from Social Security and pulled out my new card.

So now,
I am officially the
old me with my
new (old) name
on my
new
social security card
that looks a lot like my
old old card

#sol22 March 28 Before That…

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by!

My 12-year-old is waiting for me to finish writing so we can watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Somehow, my 15-year-old is in the driveway with his dad getting a pre-driving driving lesson.
“In just a few months I’ll be able to actually drive,” he said.

Before that, I was at Home Goods, missing my daughter.
“I had to call my daughter who is away at school to ask her about having these pillows together!” I told the associate when she complimented the dining room chair pillows I had picked out.

Before that, I had indeed been Facetiming my daughter. She was at dinner, but answered the phone anyway and helped me decide on a few things.
“Why do you have to go to college anyway?” I asked her. “Shouldn’t you live here so you can go to Home Goods with me?”

Before that, I’m pretty sure, My kids were babies.


#sol22 March 20 The Truth About Cats and Dogs?

Slice of LIfe
Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers March Slice a Day Challenge! I’m slicing every day this month. Thanks for stopping by!

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

Theodore
Snuggling is his favorite.
He thinks that wherever I am, he should be.

Sometimes he sneaks up, investigating the couch, slowly walking towards where I am reading. This is a familiar dance. He knows he needs to be careful.

He isn’t the only one who thinks that wherever I am, he should be.

Finn
Snuggling is his favorite
He thinks that wherever I am, he should be.

Each time Theodore tries to sneak on the couch, he must think that this time I’ll be alone. But then he takes one more step and realizes, it’s not his lucky chance for snuggles. Finn thinks the couch belongs to him. He’s pretty sure I belong to him too.

But, when Finn is away, the couch belongs to the cats.

Talula
Playing is her favorite.
She can catch a pipe cleaner and loves to play fetch.
She’ll snuggle nearby and on her terms

She’s one smart kitty. She waits until Finn is distracted to get her couch time.

Then, when she’s sure he’s occupied, she jumps on the couch to hang out nearby.

The truth about these cats and dogs is that they would be bestest of friends if they stopped being so possessive about snuggling me. They’ll touch noses sometimes, and I’ve seen Finn bring over a toy and ask Theodore to play. He’s usually not in the mood, but I’ve also seen him play with Finn’s tail. They have so much in common. I think maybe they hang out while I’m at work.