Monthly Archives

October 2015

Holidaze

Candy Everybody Wants

From the DadvMom.com Archives.  Happy Halloween, everyone.

SEVEN LESSONS I LEARNED TRICK-OR-TREATING

As I sit here rifling through my kids’ pumpkin buckets, sneaking a Snickers here and a couple Kit Kats there, I am pleased that Halloween is officially in the books. However, as with any holiday celebrated in the company of hyperactive children, there were some takeaways:

1. Trick-or-treating with a beverage in a red Solo cup is permissible, as long as you are accompanied by kids. Trick-or-treating with a beverage in a red Solo cup is suspect if you are A) a single man dressed up as a mammogram machine, or B) all alone.

2. There is a candy hierarchy. Like it or not, neighbors judge you based on what you hand out. Want to blend in? Tootsie Rolls are fine. M&M’s or any product in the Hershey’s genre will get you there. But Smarties? Smarties were a crap candy in 1974 and they are a crap candy today. Dum Dums are not much better. If the candy is available for free at a local bank, it is best not to distribute it. But to the fellow on Sycamore Street who handed out the whole Twix bars: you are a Golden God.

3. Scented candles, particularly lavender or pine, may soothe guests in a massage parlor or spa, but they are disconcerting choices inside of jack-o-lanterns. For reasons unknown to science, they pretty much smell like pee.

4. The teeniest, dumbest kids get the most candy. Deal with it. My two-year-old son yelled “Trick or Treat” at shrubbery, birdfeeders, and several mailboxes. But when he reached the front porch of every house, he went silent. He did not say “Please.” He did not say “Thank you.” But because he is only three feet tall, folks gave him handfuls of goodies again and again and again.

5. To the kiddos: 364 days of the year, when a strange man invites you into the haunted voodoo tent in his garage, say NO. In fact, call the police. On Halloween, go on in. It turns out the shrunken heads are actually licorice flavored.

6. To the parents: 364 days of the year, when your kids ask if they can eat more candy, say NO. But on Halloween, say YES. Actually say the words: “Eat more candy.” The shock alone will probably cause the kids to eat less than they would have had you argued about it. Plus, for about forty-five minutes anyway, they will think you are awesome.

7. And finally, when the sugar crash hits, whether the kid falls to the sidewalk in a full-on tantrum, or merely falls asleep with his face in a pile of Milk Duds, it’s all right. The kids are not evil; the parents are not ineffectual. It’s Halloween. Despite how scary things may look, no real harm has been done. It is just time to call it a night.

 

Originally published on the Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/annmarie-kellyharbaugh/seven-lessons-i-learned-t_b_6085940.html#es_share_ended

Holidaze

Smashing Pumpkins

I’m a fan of the pie, the muffins, the bread, and the cake, but I do not like raw pumpkin. I am not squeamish about carving. I even kind of like the feel of the cold, slimy innards. I just don’t like the smell. It’s like a cross between play dough and sadness. There’s unfinished business in there, I think.

The insides of pumpkins are saddest on the morning after Halloween. Too many sugar-crashed children awaken to the broken remains of their toothy jack-o-lanterns on the sidewalk or street.

But it is always good to be reminded of a different perspective.

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Sometimes smashing pumpkins can bring a community together.

Sometimes smashing pumpkins can even be good.

 

In Chagrin Falls, Ohio, it is a yearly tradition that high school seniors and local law enforcement come together one night a year to crush pumpkins. And then play in the mess.

Not everything cracked needs glue.

Not everything that is in pieces needs to be fixed.

And sometimes all we need is to take a break from our tough shells, laugh a little at our slimy insides, take a running start, and glide gloriously through the mess.

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Holidaze

Holla Wean

It is late October, which means only one thing in this house: what the *&%# are my kids going to be for Halloween?

Every year, I vow that next year will be different. I will not wrap myself up in their crazy. I will not cotton last-minute schemes. I will not enter Party City on Oct. 30th in search of “medium-blue socks and a small bag of feathers.” Instead, like the well-behaved family that I know we could be, we will make early plans. We will select costumes and wear them. Or we will let the chips fall.

I really thought that this was going to be our year.

In July, both girls had wanted desperately to be Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. I was jazzed. We would have no simpering princesses. No sequins, pompoms, or lace. Instead, we would show off two strong heroines. With easy costumes to boot. Wear black, braid hair, carry an arrow, and call it done. But our oldest daughter is going through a bit of a tween phase, and said she would not be caught dead in a costume that matched her baby sister, who in turn, seems to be going through a bit of a copycat phase, and will only be Katniss if her older sister will match. So now neither one will volunteer as tribute.

My friends seem to eliminate this waffling and tomfoolery with the popular household theme costume. I’ve known families who dressed as minions or superheroes, Star Wars personalities or characters from Scooby Doo. My neighbors transformed themselves into the cast of The Dukes of Hazzard a few years back. Baby Boss Hogg and teenage Roscoe P. Coltrane were particularly on point.

I floated a theme idea to my own family this year, and the only notion upon which anyone could agree was that I would portray the Wicked Witch. That theme was jettisoned, however, when everyone else in the family fought over Dorothy. For a few moments at the Science Center, we were committed to being a family of astronauts. Space Team Harbaugh. Our costumes would be both empowering and STEM-appropriate. But the rockateers disbanded at the gift shop when I saw the price of one single spacesuit. Astronomical! Out of this world! They must have been using the proceeds to fund actual space exploration.

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Without a theme, we quickly became untethered. Costume notions have entered and exited the house with the breeze. Already, our six-year-old has vetoed the fireman, dinosaur, bumblebee, ballerina, and ninja. I really thought we had a winner with that last one until her sister reminded her it was “lame” to wear the same costume two years in a row. I wanted to kick her.

I complained to my husband about the kids’ failure to commit, but he adopts a “not my circus, not my monkeys” attitude about this holiday. Give him his way, and we would skip it altogether. He does not like candy. Or pumpkin lattes. And he once told me he would rather “scrub a toilet than wear a costume.” To be fair, he has begrudgingly dressed up whenever I have insisted, though that has usually meant putting on a Hawaiian shirt, carrying a beer, and calling himself Jimmy Buffett.

I suppose yearly costume failure is in my lineage. Growing up, most years, I was either a pirate or a gypsy – which both looked pretty much the same. My father came from a long line of hobos. And my brothers alternated their pirates with various sportsmen: pirate – golfer – pirate – baseball player – pirate — quarterback. My sister was often a witch. None of us won many awards for originality, but we had full candy buckets at the end of the night, which, as far as we were concerned, was the whole point.

I have never subscribed to the notion that a Halloween costume is an extension of your soul. I like a heavyset male in a tutu claiming to be Tinker Bell as much as the next gal, but I’m also fine with ghosts and black cats. I do not equate costume proficiency with winning at life. People with basic get-ups can still be complex humans. Especially if they pull it off without spending any money. Last year, Lizzie’s preschool teacher became my new hero when she whipped up a turtle with some green paper and a stapler. That was my kind of cheap.

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Of course, there are other forces getting in the way of my frugality. In addition to believing her costume is an extension of her soul, my oldest daughter fears this might be her last chance for trick-or-treating. I have tried to convince her that she’ll eke out a few more candy-grubbing promenades. But she’ll start middle school next year. Maybe she is right. I distinctly remember my last year as a costumed participant. My girlfriend and I dressed in robes and face cream and claimed we were “moms” – as though either of our mothers had ever looked that way. Neighbors humored us, but we knew. We were old enough to walk into a store and purchase our own candy. It was time to hang up pumpkin buckets, and put the pillowcases back on the bed.

Which is why I will probably drive my daughters to Party City tomorrow afternoon. And why I will pay Amazon.com to rush ship a different costume to our house next week. For a young girl, October 31st is a chance to be anything she wants: a painter, the President, a doctor, an astronaut, a rock star, a superhero, or the commissioner of the NBA.

The world sometimes disagrees. But on Halloween, blessedly ridiculous, frequently last-minute, Halloween, I want no limits. On that night, I want my girls to have all of the options, and all of the opportunities.

If only to help me reinforce this idea every other day of the year.

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The NY Observer ran a version of this piece on Oct. 27, 2015.

Dreams

Video Killed the Radio Star

Katie and I were interviewed oh-so-briefly today for a fledgling TV talk show. Ordinarily, I avoid video cameras. Not just because they add 10-15 pounds to my already substantial frame, but also because I dislike sounding like an idiot. A relative stranger asks me a question, and in thirty seconds or less, I try to string together an articulate thought. If (when) I do not, the video happens anyway, and filters out into the world where it can mock me forever. I am altogether too flappable for such an endeavor. And too much of a chicken.

However, Katie has disliked weekdays lately. She and school have not exactly been simpatico. As a partial antidote, we have made a plan to infuse after-school hours with activities she enjoys. More swimming. More adventure. More “just us” afternoons. And, since we live in Los Angeles now, she would like to audition for a film. Ideally, she would like her first role to be Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies. But since that part has already been taken, we did this television interview instead.

And it was great.

Kind of. I mean, the finished product looks ridiculous. One of us is always on the verge of laughing. My eyes shut every time I speak, and my ears seem unusually crooked. Plus, has anyone studied the relationship between a rolling camera and a melting brain? Despite the fact that I compose sentences for a living, I could not remember the words tablet or adolescence when answering a question about tweens and technology. Part of me hopes they never air the tape.

Katie, on the other hand, sounded polished and articulate. She was thoughtful and humble and absolutely radiant on film. So there is this other part of me, the grown-up part, that desperately hopes they do air it. It may wound my pride, but it would bolster hers.

Ken and I muse sometimes about our purpose here on this planet – the ambition that drives us, the schemes we have deferred. He will probably never be a marine biologist or an astronaut. And I don’t think even an off-off-Broadway director is going to cast me as the saucy heroine in a new musical comedy. But we are making peace with these defeats. And adjusting our aims. Besides, it has occurred to us that our biggest mission here on earth is to be of service to our children. To raise them to be decent humans, to help them set their goals, to be the fire that fuels their dreams. Even if it means embarrassing ourselves from time to time on national television, it is worth the humiliation to see our kids soar.

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Interview Practice Introduction — Take 11

Holidaze

Greetings from the Pumpkin Patch, Parking Lot 7-B

I took Henry on his first school field trip today.  There were some difficulties.

We were instructed to meet at a nearby pumpkin patch.  I grew up in the suburbs, but if I drove ten minutes in any direction I inevitably landed on someone’s farm.  I was never far from crops, creeks, and animals.  However, my own children, raised in Los Angeles, are thoroughly removed from anything resembling bucolic rusticity.  I suppose that is why most schools here make such an effort to occasionally transport the children to where the wild things are.

Except there must have been some funding shortages this year, since our “pumpkin patch” was across the street from the shopping mall, cattycorner from a Mobil station, and not far from Benihana.

I should have turned around when I saw the long line at the admission gate.  It was like something out of Dante.  This was no verdant field in which to wander freely with a cup of cider.  This was someone’s cash cow.  I could practically hear the CHA-CHING, CHA-CHING every time another family entered the patch.

And let’s be clear:  this was no more a patch of pumpkins than I am an exotic dancer.  This was a patch of parking lot made to loosely resemble agriculture with a couple of corn stalks and some scattered straw.  And its relationship to pumpkins was tenuous at best.  Most of the round, orange fellows were piled in boxes and crates near the port-a-potty.  Those that were on display were more like museum artifacts than future jack-o-lanterns.  Signs throughout the sham patch cautioned us not to stand on, lean against, or even look at the pumpkins too enthusiastically.  And call me crazy, but I maintain that anything my family is going to cut up, light on fire, and throw in our trashcan should cost less than, say, dinner for four.

Speaking of refuse, one of the huskier workers spent most of our visit digging through the waste receptacles — perhaps to retrieve the plastic animal feed cups that the less earth-conscious patrons had thrown away, or maybe in search of a sandwich.  I could not be certain.  The whole place was a shady business.

But my son was delighted by all of it.

His school-issued t-shirt was several sizes too big, but he was able to chew on it more effectively.  Plus, it was blue, which is currently one of his five favorite colors.

He did not mind that the line for the pony ride was forty-seven minutes long.  The wait afforded him extra time to kick straw into piles.

Other than initially mistaking them for bears, Henry was enchanted by the penned up goats.  It did not bother him that they seemed overfed or that the light brown one in the center was sleeping in his own feces.

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Henry also appreciated the addition of the souvenir station and bounce houses.  He did not feel it compromised the integrity of the ranch atmosphere one bit.

He loved the cardboard boxes of miniscule pumpkins, because he could hold two or three in his hands at once.

And Henry thought 24 bucks was a totally reasonable amount to spend on this faux farm experience.  And that it was also totally fine that the pumpkins cost extra.

I hate contrived joy for children.  I dislike scripted holiday entertainment, and the way kids now look to us, their parents, for food, drink, shelter, love, and concierge services.  Since when did the scheduling of perpetual fun become a mother’s job?  My own mom drew the line at dropping us off at the city pool.  Go play! was her battle cry, and it was a good one.  I crave authentic childhood experiences for my kiddos – hide-and-go-seek in the neighborhood, dips in the paddling pool, hikes off trail.

But equally important, I think, is listening to what my kids want.  For them to know I hear what they are saying, understand what they are feeling, and that I value it.  Even if their world view does not align utterly with my own.  Which means, every once in a while, I must look at the parking lot pumpkin patch through the eyes of my son, stare down its flimflam and bamboozlery, and declare it beautiful.

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Eat Your Veggies

Macaroni and Sadness

We took the kids for dim sum last weekend. Lizzie said the restaurant reminded her of Mulan’s house. Katie practiced reading Chinese. Henry drummed on the table with chopsticks, and cried when there were no hot dogs.

My husband and I like to believe that we have become better parents over time. We are more patient and better listeners. We no longer get swept up in arguments about combing hair or whether wearing a princess dress to church is a sin. And neither of us has locked anyone in any room in a really long time. And yet, our son Henry subsists almost entirely on a diet of processed meat, mac and cheese, French Toast, and cucumbers.

Our oldest daughter has the palate of a 42-year-old. She eats bleu cheese, oysters, mussels, wasabi, Sriracha, and okra. She pickles her own root vegetables and blends her own curry paste. Her latest obsession is homemade lemon curd, which she likes to pair with a braided rosemary loaf. When we dine out, she frequently orders the bouillabaisse.

Our middle kiddo, while slightly less eclectic in her gastronomic enthusiasms, still enjoys a wide variety of foods. Some of her favorites include king crab, salmon sashimi, kale chips, chicken korma, raw spinach, and any variety of homemade pie. During dessert last week at the Pie Hole, she horked down a slice of pumpkin in under two minutes flat. She also polished off Katie’s apple, my chocolate, and Ken’s earl grey pie, and made a bit of a stink when I said we could not order any more.

Henry did not eat pie that day. He wanted a hot dog.

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In his book, The Man Who Ate Everything, food critic Jeffrey Steingarten studied his own food aversions and concluded that most food “phobias” are simply learned behaviors. You catch a flu bug after eating noodles, and thereafter, lo mein is banished from your menu. The texture of tofu is initially off-putting, so you add it to your iffy list. However, Steingarten found that he was able to cleanse his taste buds. He conquered nearly all of his food fears, from kimchi to clams, simply through repeated exposure. The more often he made himself sample dreaded dishes, the more likely he was to tolerate, even enjoy them. He claimed the same was true for young people. “Most babies,” he wrote, “will accept nearly anything after eight or ten tries.

Which means that we only have to pile pork buns and radish cakes in front of Henry nine more times before we might actually get him to stomach them. Of course, multiply that across the three hundred other foods that he routinely eschews, and it looks like we will be resetting his taste buds — not to mention making embarrassing scenes in restaurants — for the rest of his childhood.

It is not just that I would like to see my son eat his vegetables. I want him to grow up and experience the world more fully. I want him to savor sushi in Tokyo. I want his first trip to Paris to include both pain au chocolat and escargot. And I fear that closed-mindedness towards food might cause him to overlook life’s other pleasures – wine, the opera, off beat travel, or even visionary ideas. Might not a love affair with hot dogs predestine an existence devoid of intellectual subtlety and nuance?

The only thing that gives me hope is that I was also a crummy eater. Peanut butter sandwiches nourished my childhood. I would never have consumed pie. Or cheese. Or mushrooms. Or cured meats. Or any of dozens of other foods that, as an adult, I now enjoy. Even as a teenager, I remember being afraid of typical teen fare: Cherry Coke, sweet and sour chicken, nachos. But after repeated exposure, even I evolved to enjoy those (admittedly terrible) foods.

So for now, we will keep plopping it all in front of him – the eggplant, the soybeans, the soup — in hopes that the scent, the memory, even just the essence of these flavors will be stored somewhere in his sausage-loving brain. And one day, maybe Henry will stop drumming his chopsticks long enough to be mildly intrigued by a dumpling or a rice ball, and take a big bite out of life.

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Dreams, Time Travel

My Favorite Martian

If you have not yet seenThe Martian, you should. Movies have always found ways to make space travel exciting, but this one makes science itself seem cool. When’s the last time the interplanetary hero was a botanist?

Like many Navy pilots, I used to daydream about becoming an astronaut. I had the science background, the grades, the flying skills, and as clean a route into space as most people get. But I chose a different path, one that landed me with three kids, an incredible job, and barely any regrets. Except, occasionally, when I watch a space movie and wonder What if…?

But about halfway through The Martian I realized having children has changed the way I answer that question. It was no longer me saving the day on Mars. It was Katie. And Lizzie. And Henry. They were the ones sowing potatoes in the Martian soil, traversing the barren red landscape, and fighting to get home to . . . well, to see their parents again.

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I’ve always been a bit of a romantic. My wife makes fun of me when I suggest we sell everything and buy a sailboat. And as we grow older, it has become apparent that most of my crazy ideas will forever remain the daydreams they began as. But kids give my imagination new life.

The day after I saw The Martian, we took the family to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor, now parked at a museum twenty minutes from our house. Lizzie was more interested in the freeze-dried ice cream in the gift shop, and Henry was content to swing from the guardrail surrounding the enormous spaceship. But I still got brief glimpses of my kids as space-faring adventurers. The paths closed to me lay wide open before them. As parents, whatever dreams we have left, our children now carry for us.

I know that I will never rocket into space. The passage of time, and the choices I’ve made, have turned that idea and a thousand others into fantasies saved for movie night. Having kids, I can live with that. Now, as far as selling everything and living on a boat . . . there’s still world enough and time.

 

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Awesomeness

Girls Will Be Girls

There is no boy . . . that is cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting your education. If I had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the President of the United States.    

— Michelle Obama

I love these words from our First Lady. I believe they argue in favor of locking my daughter in her room next year instead of sending her to a co-ed middle school. And I like thinking about the boys that young Michelle LaVaughn Robinson sent packing so she could work on her own self, and pursue her dreams. But primarily I love these words because they hit so close to home.

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I have always worried entirely too much about who liked me and who thought I was cute. From kindergarten until about ten minutes ago, these have been overarching themes in my ridiculous life. When I was five, I wondered why this boy named Steve chased Tracy and Tammy during recess more than he chased me. At eleven, I let this other boy, Todd, cut in line in front of me every week on pizza day. In seventh grade, I remember walking hallways that were not on the way to my Honors Science class just to catch a glimpse of my crush outside wood shop. And I can’t even begin to quantify how many hours of my high school career were devoted to which boy would accompany me to which dance and what dress I would wear. At the time, it all seemed so fantastically important. I would have defended my behavior as totally normal. I mean so what if I snuck out of the Smithsonian field trip to buy sunglasses from a street vendor with my almost boyfriend?  Didn’t everybody?

But looking back, I see the consequences so clearly. I see myself playing dumb, flirting, turning my Biology test paper face down on my desk so no one would see how well I had done. I believed that being brainy made me less interesting to the boys. And truthfully, it probably did. But I wish someone had told me that did not matter at all. I wish someone had told me not to call boys pretending not to know what the Math assignment was, and not to waste my hours dedicating Milli Vanilli songs to them on the radio. Probably lots of people told me to leave the boys alone – my mom, my grandma, my best friend. But I feel like if I had heard those words from a woman like Michelle Obama, maybe, just maybe, I might have listened.

Let’s do right by our girls. They can have their occasional crush, but let’s embolden them to dream bigger, and not let  foolish lads distract them from their golden paths. The boys can chase them later if they like, but for now, let’s just get them strong, and wise, and beautiful, and see how fast our girls can run.

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The Writing Process

Interrupting Ducks

“Whatever you do, don’t bother Mom while she’s writing,” cautioned Ken as he zipped out to the garage.

Which is why Katie only asked for a little help with her candy-making stand. She needed marshmallows. And caramels. And Rice Krispies. And chocolate molds. And wax paper.

“Mom is writing, so just let her be,” reminded Ken as he opened his computer.

Which is why Lizzie only needed me to photograph three of the costumes that she put on her stuffed pig.

And why Henry crawled into my lap and fell asleep.

Our kids drive me batty sometimes. They do not understand the sanctity of my work time.

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Then again, they are the inspiration for my work. Their shenanigans fuel my stories; their silliness softens my heart. Because of them, I get to say all manner of things I have never said before.

     No, Lizzie, it is not ‘illegal’ to kick a volleyball.

     No, Henry, you cannot bring three owls and a puppy into church.

     No, Katie, I will not eat that spider for a dollar.

     Yes, Lizzie, I would love to see your pig’s new talent show.

     Girls, stop fighting over that cucumber.

     Lizzie, even if Katie said she would pay you a dollar, please do not shoot that arrow at your father’s butt.

     No, thank you, Katie. I do not want a chocolate-covered hard-boiled egg.

I sometimes envy my writer friends who have offices, computer desks, and uninterrupted hours in which to create.

When I really need to do serious writing, I drive to the grocery store. They have a couple tables near the check out. It is quieter there. Plus, afterwards, I can buy milk.

But mostly, I prefer to write past bedtime. I tuck myself here in the alcove, just me and the spiders, and maybe a cup of tea.  I type through the shadows, thankful, always so very thankful, that the kids’ stories light up the dark.

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Health & Fitness & Oreos

Where the Sidewalk Ends

The greatest thing about having a child is putting yourself second in your own life.

— Louis C.K.

Ken works occasionally in San Francisco, and since this is one of my favorite cities in the universe, the kids and I occasionally tag along. This past weekend, we stayed opposite the water in lovely Pacifica. But after a shabby night’s sleep in a stuffy hotel room, I decided I needed a walk. I meandered a trail beside the ocean, and it was glorious – blue-green water, salty sea air, breathtaking vistas. I breathed deeply and felt lucky. We have neither wealth nor fame nor power, but we have good love, good adventures, and good kids.

It was warmer than I anticipated so before heading up the steepest trail, I zipped back to the car for sunscreen and a hat. In the hotel parking lot, I felt selfish for keeping such a scenic sojourn all to myself. I ventured upstairs to see if anyone wanted to join in.

My three precious yahoos were sitting in the Jacuzzi tub eating mini-muffins, drinking apple cider, and watching the Disney Channel. Ken was asleep.

 

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“I found an awesome trail!” I announced. “Who is up for a cool hike?”

No one acknowledged me. I stepped in front of the television and asked again.

“Hey, guys. Anyone want to come hiking?”

“Mom, I can’t see the TV.”

“No.”

“Ugh.”

Ken muttered that he would like to come with, but then rolled over and went back to sleep.

That should have been my cue. They were on vacation. They had muffins. And crap TV. They were happy.

Instead, I muted the program to clarify my suggestion – the blue-green water, that crisp sea air. Again, they declined. It turns out that children do not care about these things. And again, I failed to make my exit. Instead, I cajoled, complained, and insisted. Had we really driven six hours to watch television? Didn’t family walks always make us happy? Wouldn’t it be great to discover some hole-in-the-wall seafood shack for lunch?

After you live with folks for a while, you learn their particular kind of crazy. When Ken and the kids realized I was not going to drop this, they begrudgingly acquiesced.

It took nearly ninety minutes, but eventually, everyone was washed, dried, and dressed for the wonderful family outing I had declared. We set off up, up, up the hill.

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It was strange to be ascending with people so obviously downtrodden.

It was hotter than it had been when I originally set out. My formerly energetic pace was quickly slackened by grumbles, quarrels, and literal foot-dragging.

“I’m hot.”

“Walking is dumb.”

“I can’t believe we’re missing ‘A.N.T. Farm’ for this.”

I should have left them at the hotel. What kind of idiot drags kids out of a hot tub to go hiking? If and when we ever finished this dirty ramble, they were just going to need another bath. I had desperately wanted to share this outing with them, and as soon as we began sharing the outing, I desperately wanted them to go away.

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That’s the funny thing about doing anything with children. It does not matter what you do or where you go – Disney World, a restaurant, ice skating, the bathroom, the library, the airport, the mall — the very presence of the children makes doing that thing more difficult and usually less enjoyable. I often wonder why we bring our children anywhere at all.

They made me cranky and I made them cranky, and various threats were lobbed regarding the abandonment of the entire business, but we kept going anyway – me, because I refused to return to the hotel yet again without first climbing this damn hill, and them, because … well, they are kids, and kids are prone to follow trails and sidewalks until they end. Shel Silverstein taught us that.

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And here’s the thing: it’s actually really hard to stay angry when you are A. exercising, and B. face to face with beauty. It just is. And C. It’s hard to stay mad at your children when they have stopped being mad at you.

So, what began as a swift, splendid hike by myself turned into a slow, terrible hike with the kids. And then, for about eleven minutes, that same slog turned kind of awesome again. We caught a lizard. We reached the summit. We followed a secret trail to a hidden cove. We ate wild fennel on the beach. We even made it halfway back to the car before everyone started arguing again.

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That trek was different with our children there. It was so much worse, but also a little better.

And yet another reminder that we have neither wealth nor fame nor power, but we have good love, good adventures, and good kids. Mostly.