They Hate Road Trips-2021

This is the first of my summer road trip musings, in reverse order to my childhood.

Texas-New Mexico state line

I grew up in the Texas panhandle, New Mexico nearby, but we never went there when I was a kid. No snow skiing or summer hikes for us. Our summer vacations, if we had one, were usually to south Texas to visit my dad’s side of the family. If we were lucky, we’d get to visit the beach, but we mostly stayed at my grandma’s and visited family.

The past two years, summer vacation plans fell through. We always go back home to visit our family, but now we travel north. Last week we spent the first half of our vacation with family and then invited my mom to tag along with us for a few days in New Mexico. Six years before, almost to the day, we attended the U.F.O. Festival in Roswell, spent a day at Carlsbad Caverns, slid down the dunes in White Sands, and did a tiny bit of hiking in Ruidoso.

Santa Rosa, NM

Albuquerque and Santa Fe were our destinations this year and I wanted to stop at as many roadside attractions as possible. In reality, we didn’t stop as often as I anticipated. I had a grand plan to map out everything, but the beginning of summer break had us busy with day long projects for two weeks straight. Not much time for planning. As I got lost in the depths of Pinterest and the web, I decided we’d play it by ear. I started my sightseeing list, asked the kids to do their own research and give me suggestions (they didn’t), and quickly realized we’d need more than three days to do everything. Plan B: do what we can with the time we have.

We stayed at a beautiful home in Albuquerque via Vrbo. We bought enough groceries to prepare breakfast and dinner. When we arrived, I almost didn’t want to leave the house. I spent the mornings on the front porch of the courtyard sipping my coffee while watching hummingbirds and other birds I couldn’t identify stop by the fountain for their morning sips of water. My mom joined me and we took our time catching up. It had been almost a year since I’d seen her.

The kiddos, right before they ditched us. I’ll take what I can get.

In Santa Fe, we went to Meow Wolf, the immersive art exhibit in a remodeled bowling alley. The kids ditched us. We went on our own and had a great time anyway. Parents with younger kids wrangled and steered them in the direction they needed to go. Some hollered at them to figure out where they had wandered off–there are lots of nooks, crannies, and secret passages. I don’t miss those days. But here I am, without my own kids. I didn’t experience their wonder or joy, but they did show me their pictures. Sigh…

We headed out for lunch then for some shopping. Even if they’re older, they still get tired. I didn’t get to pop in to as many shops as I would’ve liked. They aren’t much into shopping unless it’s for candy or ice cream. Kids have a way of telling you things without telling you things. It was hot and they were done with the walking even though they’d been fed. It doesn’t stop at toddlerhood.

We spent the following day in Albuquerque. The oldest didn’t want to join us and I didn’t prod. This is probably our last full-family road trip. Heading back to Texas, we stopped at a large souvenir shop I remember from my own last full-family road trip to Las Vegas before my senior year of high school. It’s funny, no matter how old the kids get, there’s still the allure of filling up a little bag of polished rocks. Although they had their own spending money, I bought them both said little bags full of rocks, the youngest correcting me, “They’re crystals, Mom, not rocks.”

As we got back onto the highway, my mom announced she bought me a little something. I turned around and she handed me a small plastic rectangle. I flipped it over and discovered my name printed on it. I squealed like a twelve year old on a road trip. There’s still the allure of getting a little license plate souvenir keychain with your name on it, no matter how old you get.

Souvenirs are my fave!

Yes, Kid!

Yesterday, the ‘tween started out having a bad morning in only the way ‘tween angst manifests itself on the second day of summer break. Woe is me, I can’t see my friends, I hate cleaning my room, and it’s so boring. The good thing is, this one will say “I need attention.” That usually means I can squeeze out a hug. Or get a quick cuddle. On a good day, it also means I can get a good conversation.

I had been meaning, in the the back of my mind, to offer my kids a Yes Day. If you aren’t familiar, it’s the title of late author Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s picture book and now a movie starring Jennifer Garner. I haven’t read the book and I’ve only watched the movie trailer, but the premise is to say yes to your kid(s) for one day rather than no.

In the way I do celebrations and how I imagine events to happen (they never match up to my intended expectations and usually flop before I start), I didn’t think through it much. After a little pep talk, I suggested a Yes Day. It was still early, I had the day off, and we didn’t have anything planned other than puttering around the house. My invitation was accepted.

I explained whatever is requested today, within reason–I mean, ask for a million dollars and there’s no way I can make that happen–I’ll say yes. I decided to go with it, took a deep breath and ideas started rolling. There’s a little doughnut place within a popular shopping destination. We rarely go shopping. I said yes and off we went. We shared doughnuts for lunch. Popping in and out of shops, we wound up at a candy store and I bought a bag of overpriced candy, but who can deny a kid scoops of candy? Me, I’m a meanie mom, but she wasn’t invited today. Our final stop yielded a small box of amazonite, quartz, and rose quartz crystals.

We spent the rest of the afternoon watching a favorite series, cuddled on my bed with the laptop resting between us. Apparently, watching on my laptop is more fun than using the TV. Who knew?

That was it. I thought it would be a busier day. We returned home much sooner than I expected. I said yes to smaller things, moments. I honestly thought I’d have to brace myself for a long list of requests. I took a step back and watched the day unfold. I should say yes more often.

Tuesday, June 1,2021

Are You There, Judy? It’s Me, Ally-Again

Hey, Judy. What happened when Margaret grew up and became a mom? Did she become a mom? And what happened when she birthed her teen into adulthood? I mean, sheesh, the hormones…they’re worse than when I was 13. Or pregnant. And the nesting! It’s still happening. Why? Is this normal? With social media, we get tons of parenting advice until the kids are about nine or ten. Then it stops. We have to figure it out and only when we mention something happened does anyone ever say, “Oh, that, yeah, it’s normal, but wait until…”

Maybe we ignore the advice because we don’t get it when we need it. Either too early or too late, but when we’re in the middle of everything, we try to claw our way through. This birthing a teen into adulthood emotionally rips you up. Random tears on a run. Random tears when an old picture pops up on the screen. Random tears in line at the grocery store when my eye lands on a gummy SpongeBob Krabby Patty I’d buy as a treat for a tantrum free grocery trip years ago. Hollering sessions griping about homework, chores, junk food, being online for too long, you name it…and it’s me doing the hollering. And then random tears second guessing that meeting (or those meetings) with the teacher when the kid was in sixth grade. Why didn’t I say something different? I should’ve done this instead.

Did Margaret spend too much time at work in those earlier years or was she a stay at home mom? Her kids turned out okay, didn’t they? Did her mind linger over the what ifs and what can be? A ton of time passes between the first birth and the second birth. They both hurt though, but I don’t know which one hurts more. I think I was better prepared for the first. The second one creeps up on you. I thought I was ready. Here we go anyway. We’ll figure it out. It’ll be official tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Beginning of the End

Of Another Year

I sent S. back to school in January
the same day I ordered E's cap and gown
for high school graduation
The beginning of the end 
to the first year of middle school
the beginning of the end 
to the last year of high school

E's spring orchestra concert
that was cancelled twice
once for COVID
once for an ice storm
Is that the last time we'll watch him perform?

End of the year contemplation starts in April
not December
Calendars don't go in order around here
The beginning of the end of another school year
Did I do everything that needed to be done?
Is there anything I'm still missing?

Releasing E into the world, even though
he'll still be home for a while
the distance he's created to hang out
with friends one last time brings
the beginning of the end to his dependence
on us

S. turns 12 in June
The beginning of the end of 'tweenhood
We baked a cake on Sunday
at her request for us to spend time together
She cut the last slice in half for us to share
The beginning of endings continue


SOLSC Day 30

‘Tween Momming from the Car

SOLSC Day 16

The place is a “bakery boutique.” I look for the address then poke around their online space. Macarons. I’ve never had one. Maybe I’ll eat one today. Frozen coffee drinks. Boba tea. Smoothies. Fancy cakes for special occasions we aren’t celebrating any time soon. I peruse the menu before we leave to prepare S. with options for today’s, what do you even call it? ‘Tween date? Hangout? Meeting with a friend? I don’t dare call it a playdate because that’s for little kids. Eleven is way too old for a play date.

We arrive and walk toward the bakery, her friend waiting near an outdoor table. Ready to enter and pay for her order, S’s friend interrupts, her giddy personality bubbling from her grin. “You made it! My mom gave me money for us to have treats. She’s in the car.” Okay. I thank her and S. bounces a little, trying to contain her excitement. They walk in. I return to the car.

There’s a liquor store on one side of the parking lot. Should I take a look? I decide against it in case S. returns for more money or something else. I don’t dare go back to casually say she can find me in the liquor store. I don’t want to make an irresponsible adult impression. I also don’t want to embarrass S. Those reprimands are never fun.

My Chiquita Bonita Banana de Mamí, Missy Lou, Fia Mia, Noodle, Oosey-Goosey child is growing up. I’m lucky if she lets me call her any of those names now, outgrown almost as soon as she kicked her feet free out of that infant swaddle. It seems that her feet have always been ahead of her. I snap a picture. Seriously? I’m snapping a picture of my kid hanging out with her new bff.

I roll down the windows and sit in the car, the steering wheel a makeshift desk for my journal. I need a mom-ervention, a sister-vention. I switch between journaling and pinging text messages to my sisters, each one interrupting the other conversation. I send the picture.





Awww...
It gets worse Cat.
Those boba teas are 👎🏼




Sorry to say, it does get worse!  I would've gotten a slushie instead.
I feel like the paparazzi.  S. got invited to hang out with a friend at a little bakery boba tea place.  My pingüilla is a middle schooler who doesn't want to hang out with me.  😩😩😩




She probably hates it lol! 😂  I'm not sure what she ordered.



She's been glued to my side through about the end of fourth grade.  She still falls asleep in my bed.  E is always in his room.  They come around when it's convenient.  Like when they need food or a ride to a boba tea place.

I write a little. Ping a little. Watch a little. It rained earlier. The tables and chairs are still wet. Bff takes off a black hoodie and wipes down the table and chairs. They sip. Laugh. S. waves to see if I’m watching. I am. I wave back. Shrugs her shoulders. Back to the bff. Takes a sip. I don’t think she liked the drink she ordered. They both keep shaking their hands free from what seems to be condensation transferred from their drink cups. Neither one goes back in to ask for napkins. As much as I want to, I don’t swoop in to suggest it either.

Bff’s mom strides toward them. They all go inside. Ah, looks like that mom is swooping in to ask for napkins. Nope. Bff’s mom walks out with a drink. S and bff return to the table. Looks like more giggles and a few minutes later, they both rise and part ways.

S. returns to the car. “I got a macaron! Here, have some.” I take the piece she offers. Delicious.

Are You There Judy? It’s Me, Ally.

SOLSC Day 6

This is the cover of the copy I checked out to read as a sixth grader. The covers have been updated, but this is my favorite.

Are you there Judy? It’s me, Ally. And I read your popular book about the girl who talked to God. It helped me because my mom wasn’t the type who talked about what to expect in my changing body. Nana certainly didn’t help either. I got bad information from friends and embarrassing information from films at school. How I imagined a perfect puberty through your book didn’t quite happen the way you described. Hell, even Meggie from The Thorn Birds (Mom’s favorite mini-series) got advice from Father de Bricassart.

Me? Nothing. No one helped me. I had to figure stuff out on my own and this one, one of the most concrete and visible manifestations of puberty was all mine to figure out. As I muddled my way through, learning the ins and outs, I helped my two younger sisters. They didn’t read your book, but they had me to help as much as an older sister would help.

It hit again, on a much larger scale. This, with the advent of technology where information was at my fingertips, but way before the blogosphere was a thing, I became a mother. Round two, here we go again. There were books I didn’t have time to read, A Baby Story on TLC (or was it Discovery?) was the closest thing I had to pregnancy, childbirth, and the fourth trimester. My lamaze class helped a little, but it was NOTHING like going through it.

No one warned me my pre-pregnancy clothes would. Not. Fit. At. All. No one said I’d rip, or there would be stitches. Or adult diapers. No one mentioned having to take a squirt bottle full of warm water to every bathroom visit only to wish U.S. toilets were equipped with bidets. No one mentioned nursing was a whole new level of hell (shoutout to the mammas that make it work), how my body felt like mush, and how I felt that I floated outside of my body in a zombified daze for three weeks.

There were no mommy IRL Instagram accounts, no FB support groups, and my mom wasn’t up to speed on new child rearing trends like nursing in public, co-sleeping, and putting babies to sleep on their backs only because they can freakin’ die if they sleep on their stomachs. Which is exactly the only way my son would sleep. Period. Because he came out hollering at me and he rarely slept. When he did sleep, I panicked because I thought he was dead. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” was the stupidest first time mom advice I ever received.

After my daughter was born, it was a little easier because I knew what to expect and immediately decided nursing wasn’t a good fit for my personality. Dehydrated DH3 enriched powdered cow’s milk all the way, baby! This kid slept. On her stomach, because to hell with those motherhood trends. Do what works.

We parent our kids the best we can. There are milestones, family trips, and birthdays.

The birthday.

The 40th one.

Hey, Judy, I’m in ‘tweenhood again. How did Margaret handle puberty 2.0, the sequel, the second part? I know about menopause, but there’s this ‘tween stage to prep the body for it and it’s called perimenopause. God forbid women be strong enough to hit it head-on. Weight gain that does. Not. Come. Off. No matter how little you eat or how hard you exercise, it won’t budge. The kids sleep now, too much, but insomnia is the wicked little step-sibling that likes to wail at 3:00 a.m. Smothering it with a pillow doesn’t work. After those films in middle school, the teachers nonchalantly told us we’d outgrow the acne. They lied. Popping a puberty zit isn’t the same as trying to deal with that nasty hormonal stress acne that likes to hang out on my jawline.

Judy, you didn’t warn me about this one. Did Margaret stop talking to God?

Why Do the Bloomin’ Flowers Get All the Attention?

I didn’t take my kids for a 10 year re-enactment photo shoot in the bluebonnets like I planned. They’re only interested in photo bombing and they hate being outside. They hate road trips even more. Pair that with nature and getting in the middle of a wildflower field, I didn’t even bother. And then the quarantine happened.

I figured we could go anyway and give other wildflowers a little attention. I let that slide, too. Now even the Indian paintbrush, Mexican hat, Texas thistle, and black-eyed Susan are saying goodbye.

This morning, as I walked by a field I pass every morning, I stopped to snap some shots. I wanted to take them when they were in full bloom. Sometimes procrastinating pays off. It moves us into things we didn’t intend, but gives us more than we expected.

We get to see depth. Fitting for Mother’s Day, no? We give our mammas the prettiest flowers because they deserve as much tangible beauty as we can muster. A bouquet created by nature–God–is one of the best ways to express that.

It’s hard to see the intricacies of the core of a flower in full bloom. We see the vibrant beauty created to notice from a distance. When we do get close, we see a limited part of the essence of the flower, the little parts that hold the petals, the rough edges, the thorns that protect it, the powerhouse that holds it together and creates more beauty for another season.

We tend to dismiss the full cycle in a field of flowers. Why focus on them when they’re in full bloom when there’s more to see? The end is the beginning of something stronger.

Motherhood also has cycles. Vibrant young moms. Moms with teens. Empty nest moms who have more time on their hands, maybe. Grandmothers and great-grandmothers who wear wisdom like a crown.

Like wildflowers, moms stand tall, they’re beautiful, they’re tough, but there are days when times are hard and they get worn out. They don’t stop. They keep giving the best of themselves. It’s hard to see the depth of such a complex role because we walk past it like we walk past a field of wildflowers that already bloomed.

And that’s the beauty of motherhood. We give the goodness that blooms within us.

Happy Mother’s Day.