Mystery

He walked into the kitchen while I chopped onions for dinner. He began to talk about a new video game release, and I, being distracted, gave some distant mumbles of assent.

Suddenly, he walked up to me. "Mom, you look like you need a hug." 

Then he hugged me. And held me.

He's 13, nearly 14. These last few months we've laughed together a lot. And we've frustrated each other a lot, too, scoping out our new spots in this family, in this world–he's becoming a Big Person, I'm becoming the mother of a son who needs me in a very different way than he used to.

It's exhilarating, frightening, wonderful, irritating, and hilarious. 

And so I stood there in my kitchen, at the end of a very long day in which we had puzzled each other at length, my son (my son!) holding me. Even an embrace is uncharted territory–when will my arms get used to the surreal sensation that he's a head taller than me now? I don't even always know where to put my hands.

But then my heart remembered, and my hands found their way to his back, a back that is strangely muscled and lean now. I patted him, just as I did when he weighed six pounds.

My mind scurried to find a joke to explain this sudden and unexpected moment–he loves a good quip more than anyone I know, after all. 

But the joke caught in my throat, blocked by the lump of emotion as we stood there, my hands still patting his back. We were perfectly silent, though my mind raced to capture the moment and sear it into my heart.

Remember this. Remember this.

Finally, gently, he slipped away from me. "Moment of affection now ceased," he announced, grinning my favorite cheeky grin and heading for the fridge to gulp some milk straight from the jug.

Moments like that don't cease, though, despite the boy/man's best efforts to the contrary. Those moments fill me up, fortify me for this strange new journey I'm walking. It's a journey that leaves me baffled and delighted and frightened and filled to the brim with joy at my front-row seat as I watch him become a man.

Cold, Cold, Cold

I thought it might be a really creative idea to write a blog post about The Blizzard Of 2011, since I’m sure this notion hadn’t occurred to any of the other 100 million Americans affected by the storm.

First, I interject the disclaimer that yes, all you people up north, I know that you aren’t intimidated by snow and you think it’s silly that we Southerners shut down our world for a little dusting. Lest you doubt our hardiness, let me remind you that we’re the same people who stand on our front porches and videotape tornadoes. So there. Anyway, this wasn’t exactly a dusting. Our region had the highest recorded daily snowfall ever–the local newspaper actually decided to close down for the first time in over a century. The mail isn’t running, the doctors’ offices are locked up, many highways are shut down entirely.

Basically, it’s a lot of snow, dumped on a bunch of people who don’t understand snow. To give you an idea of the depth of it, here are my two youngest playing in our backyard snow drifts (that’s the nine-year-old on the left):

IMG_1027
Thankfully, we had warning of the storm that the media dubbed Snowmaggedon, SnOMG, Snowpocalypse, etc. etc. All day Monday, our radios and telelvisions pinged and blinked and scrolled with warnings that this was The Big One. We love our Oklahoma weathercasters–I guess you tend to bond with people whose voices you hear over the radio while huddled in tornado shelters–they may bring a little drama along for the ride, but they keep us safe!

Thus armed with knowledge, I stocked us up on all the necessary items: peanut butter, cereal, canned goods, toilet paper, cookie dough, and Funyuns. We have made five (so far) batches of snow ice cream (using this recipe–SO delicious). I have made banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, and Pioneer Woman’s apple dumplings. My parents ventured out in their four-wheel-drive SUV to bring us deep dish pizza.

To summarize, we’ve gained 897 pounds.

In the three percent of our day when we’re not eating, we’ve done the following:

  • Worked on my son’s insect collection, due in a few weeks. There is a gigantic dead cricket on my dining room table at this very moment. Want to come over for dinner?
  • Caught up on American Idol on the DVR. I will confess that I mourned the loss of Simon Cowell for the first couple of episodes, but the new judges are slowly growing on me. Is it just me, or does it seem like Randy is being a little meaner this season, perhaps trying to fill Simon’s shoes? C’mon, Dawg, play nice.
  • Laughed at our little dog, who is so puzzled by the snow. Three-foot snow drifts are confusing when you’re only 18 inches tall.
  • Managed to help my son get over some trouble he was having with fractions. 
  • Finally understood fractions, myself. It only took three decades.
  • Brought down the Thomas the Tank Engine toys from the attic. My six-year-old daughter plays with them, though not at all like her big brothers once did. There is no racing or colliding–instead, she lines them up and has them communicate at length about the significance of their relationships, and why are you sitting next to him? and I wanted to marry you! and your paint is a really pretty color! Oh, how I enjoy being a girl.
  • Stayed glued to the TV coverage of the crisis in Egypt–even the big kids are fascinated at what’s going on. Praying for the people there.
  • Become a little grumbly and cross with each other. At one point today, after some general shouting and shoving, the exasperated nine-year-old hollered, “THIS FAMILY IS JUST LIKE EGYPT!” *Sigh*.

Since I know that probably at least half of you are similarly snowbound, how are you hanging in there? We are bored and lonely and a little pathetic, so tell us all your funny snow stories. Or tell us that you, too, are thinking of renting a dog sled so you can go to the store for milk.

Alive and Kicking

Hi, I'm Shannon. Once upon a time I blogged here, and then I took an entirely unplanned break, and then I started getting e-mails asking me if I had died. So it seemed like I should pop in and put those concerns to rest: I have not died, run away, or otherwise gone crazy (despite Hubs' occasional testimonials to the contrary).

Here's the scoop:

We moved unexpectedly this summer, fulfilling a life-long dream to live in the country. I should explain that by "in the country" I mean "more than four minutes away from a Wal Mart." It's a whopping nine minutes to a Wal Mart, and I think this must be just exactly how Ma Ingalls felt. You city folk just wouldn't understand.

So: New (unexpected) house and new schools, which meant that late summer and early fall were flurries of unpacking and helping everyone ease into all the new-ness. As if that weren't enough, my little tiny baby started kindergarten, which meant that I had no preschooler at home for the first time in 13 years. It was the end of an era. A sticky, playdough-encrusted era.

I realized this meant it was time to get busy on all the stuff I'd been putting off forever. I thought about running for Congress (not really) or going back to medical school (not really on that one, either), but I decided instead to to tackle the mysterious chunk of petrified something-or-other I'd been needing to scrape off the bottom of the breakfast table for a decade (yes, really, on that one).

A funny thing happened, though, as I found myself so necessarily elbow-deep in the business of real life. The part of my life that was, for so long, filled up with Twitter and deadlines and comments and stats and advertising suddenly grew silent…and, to my staggering amazement, I liked it that way. This blog was an important part of my life for so long, and those of you who have read here so faithfully have encouraged me in ways I can't express. So why, I asked myself, was it so easy to step away? I had the sense that for this moment, anyway, I'd simply said all I wanted to say in this space.

And then I wondered if I should blog some big, official announcement, but blogging about not blogging seemed a little trippy, doesn't it? So I'd look at my computer and shrug and–whaddya know–six whole months had passed.

Really, that's the whole story. No big scandal or trauma, just the much-needed realization that my online life had become too consuming and–despite my best efforts–it was keeping me from giving the best part of myself to the people I love most. It was time to change that.  And it's been very, very good. Life is quieter now, or, at least, "quieter". There are, after all, four offspring in the house with a tendency to ride down wooden stairs in laundry baskets.

This all sounds like a "The End." It's not. I don't have any plans to close this blog down, though I can't guarantee any plans to fill it back up, either. Right now I'm content for it to sit here and let me dabble in it occasionally or often or never. (Clearly, I am all about the strategic planning.)

In the meantime, wherever you are, I hope you're well and happy and finding your own little slice of quiet. Or "quiet".

See you around, sweet friends. Thanks for stopping by.

Aaaaand…DONE.

In February, Hubs and I started remodeling our master bathroom.

More accurately, I should say that in February, Hubs and I casually wondered what was under the wallpaper, so we peeled a corner. Which revealed damaged drywall. Which revealed a roof leak. Which revealed the need to scrape popcorn from the ceiling. Which meant we might as well DO THE WHOLE BLASTED THING. (Ah, sweet togetherness.)

Four months, a few tears, some sore muscles and maybe a teeny-tiny argument or two (*cough*) later, and we are finished. And we got just exactly the look we wanted.

But first, a "before" shot (these were the photos I took after my paper-bagging-walls experiment, which ultimately worked out okay, but not great. It was pretty much intended to be a short-term solution to buy us some time):

 
Oldbath

Oooo, it's dark in there, isn't? I feel like I need to put on a headlamp to do anything. Here's the new version:

 
Masterbath1

Ah, sunshine!

Another "before" shot, of the tub area:

 
Oldbath2

Love this new version MUCH better (and we saved skads of money by using beadboard instead of tile as the tub surround):

 
Masterbath3

(And by the way, yes, it's waterproof. We followed the advice of an issue of This Old House magazine and silicon-caulked the fire of that baby, inside and outside the beadboard.)

I don't have a "before" shot of the old closet located right behind that tub. Suffice it to say that it was great storage space, but the closet door was always opening up into traffic flow and driving us nuts. So we took the door off entirely and made it open shelving:

 
Masterbath2

Look at those tidy shelves! DISCLAIMER: I have never lived a day in my life with my closets looking like that–this is just the staged version (more on that in a minute). Normally, you'd see mis-matched towels folded by a five-year-old, multiple expired bottles of Maalox, and three or four knee braces. But this looks much nicer, no?

(Originally I planned to put up a white shower curtain with black grommets over that closet space. But I love the openness so much I've left it like that.)

Last shots…here's a "before" of the toilet area:

 
Oldbath3

….and AFTER:

 
Masterbath4

One last thing, because I seriously need some kudos for this one: For the first (and, I might add, last) time in my life, I painted the insides of the cabinets to make them spiffy:

 
Masterbath5

Isn't that pretty? It's kind of a shame to fill it up with toilet paper and band-aids after all that work.

So ANYWAY, the reason for all the staging is that we finished this bathroom on a Thursday and (oh, Irony, you pesky old friend) on the next Friday, we moved out. Vacated. Gone. We'd known a move was likely imminent for us, and we redid the bathroom with resale value in mind. But we didn't realize it would be quite THAT quick. So now we're gone, hoping that all the people walking through our on-the-market house are enjoying it, since we, um, never quite did.

(Speaking of which, does anybody want to buy my house?)

(P.S.  The paint color of the walls is Sherwin Williams "Sleepy Blue", and the cabinets are painted Valspar "Dark Kettle Black".)

  

If You Give a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy a Cookie

This afternoon I was sitting with my daughter as we tried to cram for the library's summer reading program enjoy some literary stimulation. I was reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie for the 3,722,185th time in my life, when the 13-year-old wandered in to ask me for something listen and reminisce about his sweet preschool years.

We finished reading and closed the book. My son asked if I could fix him something to eat. Of course he did, because it had been a shocking TWELVE minutes since lunch, and how could an adolescent boy possibly be expected to survive that long without food?

As I asked him what was wrong with his own two legs got up to graciously fix him something, I was inspired by the circumstances to flex my own literary muscle. Hence, this (with a sincere hat tip and apology to this).

If You Give a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy a Cookie

If you give a thirteen-year-old boy a cookie,
he's probably going to ask for some soda.

But as you are a mom who is feeling the pressure to make Positive Nutritional Choices,
you will urge him to drink milk instead.

He will shrug, and you will pour a giant glass of milk–whole milk–
and you will reflect that if you drank that much whole milk you would have hips
as wide as Tennessee.

He will finish the milk and and wipe his mouth with his shirt,
and you will not complain, because this is better than the milk moustache he normally wears.

He will set down the cup and ask if you've seen his cell phone,
and you will tell him you turned it off, because
why-oh-why must he and his friends text each other Chuck Norris jokes all day?

He will shrug, and then he will think of Chuck Norris,
and this will remind him of the movies, which will remind him of popcorn,
and he'll ask if you can fix him some.

And you say sure, because you're thinking that popcorn is a much cheaper snack
than the bacon he normally asks for.

He will jerk his head around because he somehow heard you think the word "bacon",
and you will tell him "no, you're having popcorn, remember?"

He will take the popcorn to the living room, and you will remind him
there is no longer any eating allowed in the living room
because you stayed up late picking brownie crumbs out of the carpet
after the last youth group party at your house.

And his eyes will shine and he will say, "Brownie?" and you will say, "NO."

So he will eat his popcorn instead (in the kitchen, like a good boy).
And all the salt will make him crave another glass of (whole) milk. 

But he's polished off the third gallon of (whole) milk this week,
and he must therefore hike all the way out to the garage to the nasty old back-up fridge. 

As he walks out to the garage, you will notice that you can see the bones in his hips,
and you will sadly remember that your pants get tight if you even think about cheesecake,
and you will know that good metabolism is wasted on those young enough to think that Big Macs are gourmet.

He will return from the garage with the milk, but with all that physical exertion,
chances are he's going to want a cookie and a brownie and some bacon to go with it.

(P.S. — I just read this post to my son, and he laughed out loud. Then he said he was hungry. Then he said I should tell you that Chuck Norris once round-house kicked a salesman. Over the phone.)

Happy Father’s Day

He pushes them to take risks when I'm too afraid.

Fd1

He tells them how to use a socket wrench, shake a hand, work a compass,
and paddle a canoe.

He helps me be firm when I want to be too easy, and he helps me stay calm when I didn't know I could.

He tells our girl that she's pretty and valuable, and he puts on a suit and tie to take her to dinner.

Fd2


He mysteriously shows up at the perfect moment with a screwdriver, or duct tape, or an ace bandage, and he knows how to let go of a bike seat at just the right moment.

He handles all the dog poop, tile grout, and algebra.

He coaches and prays and quiets and scolds and laughs and pushes and pulls with a courage and will that is the bedrock to the rest of us.

Fd3

Happy Father's Day to the far better half of this team–the man who is, in every sense, a miracle.