Things I Think I’m Supposed to Like Because Other People Seem to Really Like Them but I Actually Don’t Like at All

1. Running for recreation. “You should go for a run!” No. No, thank you.

2. Game of Thrones. It’s about some sort of a dragon, right? Or, that young magician? Wait! It’s Middle-earth and magical rings? Do I have that correct? Yes, I think that’s correct.

3. Glass shower enclosures. So, I guess this is a thing we’re all installing now? Our bathroom has one and it has looked absolutely awful since about the third shower I ever took in it. Bob and I just stand and stare at it frequently, wondering aloud how one keeps a crystal clear glass shower door clean. Because, if you think I’m going to squeegee that thing dry after every shower, you don’t know my life, man. Also, I really don’t need to be so… visible when showering. Best to hide all that behind a curtain, as our founding fathers intended.

4. Large gatherings of people in public places when it is hot outside. Concerts, festivals, fairs, amusement parks, farmer’s markets – all terrible when it’s too hot. No good. Would not recommend. Add my kids in to the mix and this is a DEFCON 2-level misery.

5. Pickling all of the foods. Why are we pickling everything all of a sudden? Did I miss a magazine article somewhere? Does everyone really like so much of their food pickled? What do you do with all of your pickled food? Do you put it on salads? Or burgers? It probably looks pretty in your cabinets though. Kind of all Little House on the Prairie up in there. I get that.

6. Playing board games with my kids. They’re really not very good at board games.

7. Snapchat. “WHAT DOES IT EVEN DOOOOO,” I holler at no one in particular while shaking my cane at the squirrel in the bird feeder and reaching in my shirt sleeve for a Kleenex.

8. Instant Pots. I don’t know about your circle but everyone in my circle seems to be using these things and I’m worried that, best case scenario, I’ll seriously scald myself or, worst case scenario, I’ll blow my whole damn house up.

9. Camping. I want to like camping. I really do. But, I accidentally walked through a spider web in our garage two days ago and basically looked like this for a solid ten minutes before I just went and showered.

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10. Unnecessary decks. Look, a deck solves an elevation issue, such as when a steep slope precludes level, accessible outdoor space. But, people seem to just put decks on everything now, all willy-nilly, irregardless of necessity or incline. Why does everyone want decks? We have a deck on our house when really, the backyard elevation is such that a patio is much more appropriate. As a result, our deck has all of these weeds growing under it and all out the sides but because the space is so small beneath the deck, we can’t get in there to do anything about it. It’s stupid. I obviously have a lot of strong feelings about decks. I just… why install a deck when a patio will do?

11. The beach. I enjoy looking at the ocean. From a balcony. Whilst sitting in a chair. Entirely uncovered in sand. The ocean is really beautiful but for purely recreational purposes with young kids, I am firmly Team Pool.

Mother’s Day Is Just The Worst

I saw all of your lovely pictures on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. There were a lot of nice breakfasts and brunches and early dinners. Plenty of hugs and kisses and homemade cards and pretty flowers. There were naps granted and lots of quiet time. One of my mom friends even got to read a book! It looked really nice. You all looked really nice.

I was excited yesterday, Mother’s Day, because the shower I took was long enough that I got to shave my legs. Well, from the knees down anyway. Not my whole legs. No one has time for that! But still, for a day that’s supposed to be all about me, that extra-long shower felt pretty luxurious. Sure, I had to let Millie watch a fifth episode of Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse in exchange but I say, “WORTH IT!” (Maybe. I don’t know. That show is really, really terrible.)

Mother’s Day has to be my least favorite holiday of all of the holidays. (And, that’s saying a lot because I find Halloween to be a giant all-around pain.) Mother’s Day is loaded with a weird combination of unrealistic expectations and forced relaxation. Like, for some reason I just expect that my kids will suddenly be more considerate and thoughtful and less screechy because it’s a special day for ME! Less bickering over the iPad and more playing Lego nicely with one another. Less hitting and more hugs. Fewer tantrums because the wind is blowing too hard and more general acceptance that I don’t control the weather. Surprisingly, that doesn’t magically happen. Also, there’s nothing more conducive to relaxation than everyone telling you repeatedly to “just go relax!” as the dishes pile up and someone spills a drink all over the kitchen table and you realize someone else showered with the curtain outside of the tub and everyone is fighting while all of next week’s prep is being ignored so you can sit in the bedroom and listen to your husband yell, “CHILL! OUT!” at the kids.

Such a special day.

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The high point of my Mother’s Day: brownie and ice cream consumed around 10:00 in the morning on Friday. It was all downhill from here.

My Mother’s Day weekend started on Thursday, when I sent Bob off on a weekend away with some of his high school friends. Now, in hindsight, the timing of this trip was probably ill-advised. However, the date was settled on back in September of last year and Bob deserves a weekend away and a break from the drudgery and some fun every once in awhile. He pledged to be home mid-day on Sunday so I got over all of this pretty quickly.

But, on Friday afternoon, I discovered something so awful in Millie’s bedroom that I don’t know if I can even adequately describe the horror. It rivaled the Great Poop Incident of 2013 only… it was pee. There was some sort of a horrible, absolutely tragic series of potty accidents followed by a completely misguided attempt to cover up what happened and then 24 hours passed before I realized that things were… wet… everywhere and it all resulted in me standing in the middle of her room cry-yelling, “WHY? WHY? WHY? WHYYYYYYY?” Millie, unfortunately, has not been able to answer that question because every time I ask her what in the sam hell happened in there, she politely requests to “talk about it later.”

Two things that made this situation worse: 1. Millie rarely has accidents and 2. the entire floor of Millie’s room was absolutely COVERED with stuff at the time this all went down. Despite our best efforts (asking nicely, cajoling, bribery, hollering), Millie’s bedroom closely resembles a pit of despair and garbage. She hoards anything and everything in her room so when she had an accident(s), there was TREMENDOUS collateral damage. I spent Friday, a good portion of Saturday and even Sunday sifting through the belongings I picked up off of her floor for anything that could be salvaged.

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Definitely not garbage. Must be kept. Do not throw away! Might smell a little like pee.

The good news? Millie’s room is finally picked up! The bad news? I sent an email to my dad asking him to bring their steam cleaner with him when he visits next week for… “unfortunate reasons.”

I haven’t even begun to recover from what I witnessed. I have a feeling it will be some time yet.

On Saturday morning, Charlie didn’t ask for breakfast when he woke up so the emergency red light emoji immediately started flashing in my brain. When he got dressed but also wanted to lay back down in bed, I knew it was all over. He was vomiting before we even hit 9:00 a.m. Now, normally, a stomach bug while solo parenting would send me into a bit of a panic but not this time. With what I had lived through the day before in Millie’s room, a little puke could barely make a dent in my armor. I set Charlie up with a floor bed to minimize damage, plopped a tiny screen in front of his face, refused his requests for food and got to work wiping down the house to prevent the spread of whatever he had.

Not to bright side Charlie’s stomach bug but having him out of commission meant relative peace and quiet for the other two kids who play together nicely. That gave me an opportunity to make progress on Millie’s “situation” and work on getting Charlie’s room ready for his new bed. Combined with a delivery of wine and cheese from friends Saturday afternoon, my Mother’s Day weekend was awful but manageable.

Then, on Sunday, with Charlie feeling better, the kids all started fighting again before I even swallowed ONE SIP of coffee, Bob had not arrived home yet, the house was getting trashed and everything was becoming awful rather quickly. My friend, Jenn, texted me Mother’s Day greetings and by the end of our messaging, I got the impression that she was actually putting her phone down and backing away slowly, like I was a bomb about to go off.

Bob arrived home with a funny card and some chocolate and flowers and that all helped but our kids were AWFUL yesterday. WE didn’t even want to hang out with them. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Now, leave me alone.

Anyway, it’s all over now. Except for the stomach bug. That’s not over. Millie woke up this morning, asked for the barf bucket and then promptly went back to sleep for FOUR hours.

A mother’s job is never done, amirite?

First Line

I’ve had a pin attached to my bag since last summer. The pin commemorates the centennial of the National Park Service, which was founded in 1916. Rightly, the NPS filled 2016 with much celebration and our family delighted in exploring new parks and participating in some of the special events taking place during such a special year.

My discovery of the National Parks really began when I moved to Washington D.C. in my twenties and embarked on a job in the city. I spent many lunch breaks strolling the National Mall, weaving in and out of tourists visiting the various memorials and monuments. Witnessing the construction of the National World War II Memorial was especially moving. After Henry arrived, he became my constant companion on these walks. I would swing by his daycare, two floors down, sweep him up, plop him in the stroller and off we would go.

As our children have grown older and with our move to Richmond and now Northwest Virginia, our National Parks exploration has expanded. I will forever refer to this time of our lives as The Battlefield Years. We’ve hit a lot of them. Like, a lot-a lot. In our various visits to Gettysburg and Antietam and Appomattox and Cedar Creek and Harpers Ferry and Petersburg and Yorktown, we’ve never – not once – had a negative experience. We have always been met by extremely competent and friendly park employees excited to share their knowledge with us, with our children.

I’m always left in sort of a state of awe after a visit to one of our national parks. It’s hard to believe that such an opportunity exists for us. To revisit so easily a part of our country’s past that’s preserved and protected solely for our enjoyment. That people work so enthusiastically and doggedly to fulfill that mission. That for $20 (and a musket for Charlie from the gift shop) we get to see, and get to show our children, what it was like to live, to fight, to survive in an era when this country was filled with so much turmoil. (There’s also ALWAYS nice potties and access to snacks in a national park. I won’t downplay how important bathrooms and a constant stream of sustenance is to a successful family outing.)

Charlie’s biggest dream is to become a park ranger and I’m pretty sure nothing Henry and Millie could ever do could top that. Sorry, you two! It’s really impressive how you became Secretary of State, Millie, and how you became President of The Lego Group, Henry, but Charlie’s a National Parks employee living in a tent on a fire tower in Wyoming with only his binoculars, a typewriter and some CLIF bars so he wins. You’ll both just have to try harder!

We’ve barely even tapped the breadth of the National Park system either. That’s one of the driving reasons for my camper obsession – so we can head west and visit as many parks as possible with the kids. There is so much to see! and to do! I want to go to ALL THE PARKS. (But, I definitely need the camper to make that happen, Bob.)

That these parks are so accessible in an era of budget cuts and funding issues is amazing. That large swaths of pristine land is preserved and prevails in an era of destructive environmental practices is amazing. That a staff of dedicated park service employees are such champions for their landscapes is amazing.

I’m a big fan, is my point. I’m like a National Parks groupie. I’m John Cusack, standing outside their gates with a stereo held above my head blaring, “In Your Eyes.”

So, it was with profound disappointment that I read about our new administration’s gag order, to include all social media posting, covering the Department of Interior and, thus, the National Park Service. Although such orders are not necessarily unprecedented and will hopefully be lifted, the focus of the orders on climate change information amounted to a blackout of scientific data. (You can read about the details from a reputable outlet here.)

This seemed retaliatory in nature and was instantly met with subversive tweets from social media managers at a variety of national and state parks and agencies in direct defiance of the gag order.

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I mean, come on. This is fantastic! These park rangers are not having any of this. They are amazing. Especially that last one. I like the cut of your jib, US Fish & Wildlife.

Additionally, several alt-Twitter accounts have popped up recently to better disseminate information about legislation and actions that may negatively affect the parks but which the parks are no longer allowed to report on.

The response from everyday Americans to the assorted National Parks’ Twitter accounts was extraordinary. I followed all week as tributes popped up to the work the NPS was rather slyly engaged in. I was delighted to see a spotlight shone on the parks and people that I consider to be such treasures. Also, some people are really, really funny.

Some of my favorite tweets from the past 10 days:

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(A reference to Mirriam Webster and Teen Vogue’s coverage since the election.)

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(#leslieknopeforpresident)

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Image: Captain RibMan / John Sprengelmeyer

I’m going to need that last one on a t-shirt. And, a tote bag. Also, a commemorative pin. Quite possibly, a tattoo.