This is a take on the popular game show, The $10,000 Pyramid, where one person gives clues to a partner. The answer is in the form of a category. 30 seconds are on the clock for each round. Can you figure out these categories?
Round 1: Time change. Rest. Cleaning. Sleeping. Trip. Fun. Friends. Reading. Long walks. Birds chirping.
The 'tween is helping with dinner
Hubster is cooking
I'm playing with a craft project
Clean-up is mine for tonight
A chunk of lettuce flies from
and the discussion quickly goes to
the three second rule
"I didn't see that"
"It's okay," 'tween says
"the wet pieces may or may not
have been on the floor,
it's not like someone's feet were there
and we don't talk about Bruno..."
Noooo! not that song again!
I've had some bubbly today,
I don't care
dinner is cooked
it's spring break
I had friend time this afternoon
I'll skip the lettuce
It's still spring break
and I'm trying not to care
Life goes on
with or without lettuce
on a burger
I stopped shopping at malls years ago. Too cumbersome. I got an Amazon Prime membership, so that’s where I’ve been since. My shopping trips usually consist of the grocery store, Target, Costco, occasionally Old Navy, and book stores. That’s about it. I hate shopping. My daughter gets lots of hand me downs from her older cousin and she isn’t into many of the current fashion trends. She prefers thrift stores.
A few weeks ago she requested a trip to Hot Topic to spend a gift card she received for her birthday last June. That’s how often we shop, almost a year later, and I haven’t taken her to use it. We browsed where she wanted to browse.
I knew better than to look for anything for myself, other than popping in to get my freebie from Bath & Body Works along with a scented candle. I bought her mall pretzels, stopped at a shop for a bag of crystals which will wind up strewn all over her desk, pairing up with the the other crystals of the same sort she already owns, and left.
I could use a new workdrobe, a new wardrobe I can wear to work. I’m getting tired of the same clothes. I look behind me and decide to come alone another time so I can have some peace and quiet while I dig into clearance racks.
She requested another trip to the mall this week. She’s enjoying shopping now, but thrift stores are her favorite. This time she requested a trip not to Hot Topic, but to Build-a-Bear. Yes, the ‘tween wants to go to Build-a-Bear. To build a frog.
“Didn’t you get rid of that Disney princess pup you got when you were five? Didn’t you say that place is so lame and only for toddlers and kindergarteners? You’ll probably toss it into the Goodwill pile in a few weeks.”
“Well, they didn’t have frogs back then. Bears are lame. Frogs are cool. And I will not put it in the Goodwill pile. It will be my emotional support frog.”
Before I listed a million reasons why she has no need for another stuffed critter, I reconsidered. It’s spring break. She’s been working so hard the past two years. She missed out on her end of fifth grade field trip and end of year celebration. She started middle school without her friend group January of last year following a rough semester of trying to learn from home. There wasn’t much learning going on.
What’s one more stuffed critter? I invited her best friend since kindergarten. Both had already researched the frog. I thought it was only available online, but that’s the blue tie dyed version. The green spring frog is what they wanted. Apparently, these are a hot item with teens right now. Sure enough, we arrived and there was a pair of middle school aged friends watching their frogs get stitched.
“We can go to a thrift store to buy the clothes because these are overpriced,” she explains to her friend. I’m teaching her valuable life skills. We made our way to get pretzels and made a pit stop at Hot Topic. More 80’s style pins, but of Moth Man. I didn’t even ask. On the way home, we found a Savers tucked a few blocks away from the mall, a blink and you’ll miss it type of location. We stopped and she found newborn sized clothes for the frog.
And that’s day one of Spring Break ’22. I can handle one more stuffed frog. It’s the trip there with a friend that counts.
I know, everyone is “celebrating” this once in a lifetime palindrome of a day. And I like palindromes, so much so I was fascinated with one of the characters in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, who spoke in palindromes. The character, one of the daughters in the story (her name escapes me-it’s been years since I’ve read it), renames Emily Dickinson no snikcidy lime, one of my favorite poets.
I found myself trying to make sense of today’s oddity. I like oddities. We tend to find each other frequently and sometimes, people find me, odd. Never mind them. It doesn’t bother me. Usually.
I had to walk back into the house twice this morning for forgotten items. My watch, oh grand teller of time. And my H20.
At work, we started day one of a two day testing session, the bane of my existence. No matter how far removed you are from the classroom, you still manage to get suckered in for testing.
During lunch, I messaged my husband and suggested we do something to celebrate. Maybe a dessert. Maybe something out of the ordinary for a weekday with the kids, but what, I wasn’t sure.
Later, I got a message. My husband and my nineteen year old suggested we go out for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Dos Salsas, where two different salsas accompany your chips before your meal. To top it off, it’s also National Margarita Day. Margarita is my signature color and if I were to choose a middle name (my parents didn’t give me one), it would be Margarita. Why the heck not, I’ll have a margarita today, three days before the weekend officially starts.
No one complained about the choice of restaurant. We didn’t argue about the possibility of sharing oversized meals and this time I ordered what I wanted without thinking twice about adding a margarita. I didn’t balk at a shared dessert of fried ice cream-we rarely order dessert. The kids didn’t fight over the last bite of it either. We all got along and genuinely enjoyed our meal together.
And that’s the point. Being together. This felt like the first normal restaurant meal we’ve had in two years. We’ve been back, but someone always stayed home, and usually for pandemic reasons. I know we’re not “back to normal” yet, if that’s even a possibility, but it felt like we were all back today. 2/22/22. Two years (mostly) later. Two long, hard, bitter years.
Do we always do this? No. Have our dinners always turned out this way B.C.-Before Covid? No. But it sure did feel good to have my family back for a few hours. It’s giving me hope that we’re at a place where we can move forward and take all the things that got thrown at all of us and actually process them. For us adults, we had to put on our business as usual attire for the sake of our kids. But I think it’s important for them to know that it was far from business as usual.
I think today is a perfect day to use as a turning point. We can fully come out of where we have been and reflect on everything we’ve learned. We can share our gratitude about how it wasn’t worse even though it got rough. We can show how much we’ve changed and how much we’ve stayed the same.
Dos Salsas is still there. Mom still likes a good margarita. It’s okay not to split a meal, but totally okay to order dessert. Celebrate odd days such as these because they only come around once in a lifetime.
Of all the tiny stories that make up a day
a week, a month?
Do I tell the one about being unable
to make it to my cousin's funeral,
the one who was like a sister when we were kids
but somehow we grew up and drifted
our separate ways like a dandelion seed
puffed out of someone's wish?
Do I tell the one about how I missed
first day of school pictures?
The one my husband took that wasn't full
of smiles and eager tween bubbles giddy to meet
friends in person once again?
The one with one less in the picture because
that one is enrolled in the University of Life?
Of all the tiny stories, which one do I tell?
Do I tell the one about the caterpillar in its
The one I caught wriggling and undulating,
pumping its whole body,
to shake itself loose
of its old skin for good,
embracing its metamorphosis
instead of fighting it?
Do I tell the one of all the ordinary things
that add up to a melting pot
and trudging along,
embracing changes but dreading them
at the same time?
Of all the tiny stories, which one gets to fly?
Father’s Day, 2019. My husband’s “gift” was a weekend trip to Kerrville, Tx. Nostalgic for the hot summers in the Texas Hill Country where he spent some of his summers as a camp counselor, he wanted to share some his favorite places with us.
As our trips tend to go, there was bickering on the way there. I wanted to stop in Fredericksburg to stroll into the shops on the way there. I packed sandwiches and drinks so we’d have a nice picnic lunch at a park. We get there, the kids are hangry, we unpack our lunches, the flies start annoying us and everyone is grumpy. I mange to snap a few selfies because no one wants pictures.
However, we popped into Dooley’s, a legit five and dime store. I swear I stepped back into my childhood. This is a place where you can still buy polyester day robes, the kind my grandma used to wore way before yoga pants and stretchy bands were a thing. Even the store fixtures time warped to their original tasks. I’m not sure if they were there in the 70s or earlier. My kids found souvenir keychains. And candy cigarettes. The kind I used to “smoke” when I was a kid that didn’t ever turn me into a real smoker. They each got a pack, the grumpy lunch experience soon forgotten. Word of advice if you go: Take cash or write a check. They don’t accept cards.
While on the road, we realized we departed for our weekend adventure on June 21st, the Summer Solstice. We also had no idea Ingram, near Kerrville, housed an art installation perfect for the occasion–Stonehenge II, along with Easter Island statue replicas.
Finding quirky roadside attractions is my favorite part of a road trip. I don’t remember how I found it. I think we were discussing the solstice. I must have searched it on my phone to read about its history and found information about all the people who travel to Stonehenge each year. It popped up on my search results and we added it to our itinerary. We were the only people there that late afternoon and ran into Chet of The Daytripper, who happened to be filming an episode for his PBS show. My son was more interested in the show and the video equipment than the replica of Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice. Sigh…
A volunteer community theater performs along the Guadalupe River. That summer they performed Madagascar-A Musical Adventure. The kids enjoyed it more than we expected. Buy the kids popcorn and soft drinks and it elevates their experience. Buy Mamma a mini bottle of wine and everyone’s happy. Like the ups and downs of the hills we travel, such is the way of a road trip. We find gems along the way, forget the grumpy parts, and take the good memories with us.
This is the first of my summer road trip musings, in reverse order to my childhood.
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.
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.
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.
The closest thing to summer camp I ever experienced was in the backyard, curled up-fetal position-in an aluminum arm chair screaming my head off when those horrid June bugs whirred around me and crashed into my arm or leg or forehead. It’s always the forehead because everything in the universe has a special attraction to it. My uncle bought sparklers a week before 4th of July and he’d light them for us. I was afraid of those too. I’m no dummy, I didn’t want to catch myself on fire. Lights, bugs, and fire weren’t my favorite things.
I did want to go to summer camp, though. It looked fun from the comfort of our couch on a hot summer day, flickering on the other side of the TV screen. Pile up in a bus with friends, lug around a ton of luggage (don’t forget the swimsuit), and wave the parents goodbye for a week or two of bunkmates in a rustic cabin with plenty of outdoor activities. Of course, they never show the mosquitos, and you can’t smell the bug spray. It looked fun though.
My sister and I had healthy imaginations and a knack for re-creating and staging things we missed out on. Especially during summer breaks. Long summer days at Nana and Papa’s were the norm while my parents worked. Occasionally, my dad “watched” us while Mom worked twelve hour shifts sewing the pockets onto Levi’s jeans or inspecting the denim to make them. I don’t recall where Mom worked that summer, but we did experience our own little camp. Once. Under the bed.
I took my first-born role seriously and coordinated a real camp-out complete with a campfire. One of my cousins was with us that day, so the three of us grabbed a flashlight, matches, and my mom’s votive candles. Mom’s bed was high off the floor so we easily fit underneath. The bedspread hung down low enough to conceal us. We had the perfect tent. On our tummies, we prepared our camp to tell ghost stories.
I arranged the candles in the middle and lit them. We sang goofy songs and started telling ghost stories, made up on the fly. The candles flickered and went out. Strike, no light. Strike, no light. Strike, no light. We used all the matches to no avail. Without a campfire, we can’t tell good ghost stories. I remembered watching my mom when she cooked and a burner didn’t cooperate. She’d rip up a brown paper grocery bag, twist a strip, and light it with another burner. Then she’d turn the faulty burner back on, the gas flow would pick it up and voilà, it’s on.
Aha, I can do that! We wriggled out from underneath the bed and I retrieved a paper bag. Mimicking the procedure, I handed my sister hold the lit up “match stick” and bring it into the bedroom while I scrambled for a candle. The flame quickly made its way down and before we could light the candle, it found her finger instead. “Oww!” She didn’t quite know what to do as the flame grew and there was no time for the candle. I grabbed her arm and led her to the kitchen sink. “Throw it in!” I ran the cold water, doused the flame and put her finger under it. I went to the fridge and took out the tub of margarine and doctored the burn slathering some onto her finger, another kitchen observation.
I returned to the sink to make sure the flame was completely out. There wasn’t much left of the singed paper bag strip. I was relieved the flame didn’t get worse. It didn’t occur to me that we shouldn’t light candles under the bed either, but hey, we wanted to go camping. We crawled under the bed to try again, but it wasn’t the same. Camping mood extinguished, we didn’t continue with the ghost stories either. Putting the candles back, we left no evidence of our outdoor adventure. Dad didn’t suspect a thing.
Years ago I started naming my summers as a declaration of my goals. I didn’t write them out in a fancy planner and vision boards weren’t a thing back then. Or maybe they were, but I didn’t know about them. Too busy with a toddler at the time.
The first one I remember was The Summer of Learning. I bought a guitar with the determination to continue plucking away at it throughout the summer. I hung out with kids at an after school enrichment class for students wanting to learn guitar. The choir teacher led it and welcomed me. Instead of signing up to teach an enrichment class, I joined one. I like to think I was modeling the love of learning something new. And hard. Summer break started and the guitar moved into my closet. It’s still there, awaiting new strings that haven’t been replaced. In years. I think it wants to play.
In the mornings, I sponsored kids who wanted to learn to knit and crochet. I knew how to make a basic chain, single, and double crochet stitches from my childhood. My mom taught me how to make these swirly worm bookmarks, complete with googly eyes. I made a few and abandoned the fiber arts, or rather, crafts. Knitting intrigued me. I found an old book from our library that had not made it to the weeding cart. I checked it out and taught myself the basics. Other kids were interested, so the group was born. I took it into summer break and learned to make cute little baby hats. Those were my projects that summer. Along with scarves I gifted people. Some wore them, some didn’t, but I made them and people gladly accepted them.
I read eight books that summer, too. This was back in the day when my kid was still young enough to nap once or twice a week. Yes, once or twice a week. My kids didn’t nap much. Ever. But I’d get my down time in the evenings and I’d stay up late only to groggily wake up early the next morning. I picked my books up in between toddler TV shows or play sessions over a makeshift cardboard box kitchen and Play-Doh. It was worth the mess.
One summer I named The Summer of Getting Stuff Done. The stuff to get done was fresh coats of interior wall paint, trying-unsuccessfully-to tend a bountiful garden, decluttering (always decluttering), freezer meal prep, exercising every morning at 5:30 a.m. Seriously? The early morning exercise sessions didn’t make it to the next summer. How did I do that though? And the freezer meal prep to toss into the Crock-Pot? They all hated the meals.
I don’t remember what I named other summers. I might have written them in a journal somewhere. Eventually I stopped because they flat out stopped working. Or I got tired. Or they stopped working and I got tired. I know one was The Summer of Baby #2 (who will soon be 12). I lost track after that. However, I started marking them with vacations.
My 40th Birthday BBF Bash to Las Vegas was one of my favorite summers. And the one to Mexico sans kids. And the one to Mexico with kids and Grandma the following summer. The less expensive one to New Mexico for Alien Fest on Fourth of July Weekend right before grad school. And the horrid one to Colorado after I finished grad school. Colorado was fine. The kids, not so much. They were at the age where their bickering was next level annoying. At least some of the pictures were good. And that’s been it.
I suppose last summer would be The Summer of…I’m over it. We all know how that summer went. Here we are…here I am, trying to figure it out. Maybe this time I’ll name my summer after I experience it. Find a name to fit after I get to know it. Let it play out and follow it where it wants to go. Our family has experienced many milestones this year. One kid composing a piece of music and graduating high school. Another starting middle school and experiencing all that comes with it. My husband’s semi-retirement. My move back to middle school in August. Planning a road trip; nothing fancy, but at least something.
Rather than take control, I’ll let this one take the lead. I’ll putter around my summer and do what I can without fretting. Get that guitar restrung and either learn to play it or give it to someone who will love it. Climb out of my comfort zone and join a writing group. Learn to play pickle ball because sports are not my thing. You know, push myself to do something hard. And read. Always reading. Hang out with my kids who no longer want to hang out. Maybe I’ll nap. Once or twice a week.
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.