Browsing Tag

possibility

Adventure

There Is No Such Thing as Lost

Sometimes the kids and I hop on a bus just to see where it goes.

I learned recently that most folks don’t do this.

Maybe it’s from a lifetime of ill-planning.

Maybe it’s because we have lived in so many places.

Maybe it’s because I am a discombobulated traveler.

I dunno.

But I am baffled by train schedules and bus routes, especially in foreign countries. And I have no patience for waiting at a stop while perfectly good vehicles unload and load, especially when my son is so enamored of things that Go! Go! Go!

Friends have pointed out that they prefer to know where their transport is heading before they climb aboard. They have concerns for my family’s hobo approach.

“What if you need a bathroom?”

We look for one.

“What if it takes you way out of town?”

It usually doesn’t.

“But what if it does?”

We hop off, cross the street, and wait for some form of conveyance heading back in the opposite direction.

What if? What if? What if?

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In college, I spent a summer semester in London. Except for a school trip to Canada, it was the first time I had ever left America, the first time I had ever lived in a foreign country or even a big city, the first time I had ever navigated public transportation on my own.

I was a student on a budget. I ate a lot of cereal that summer and ramen noodles. But I had a metro card for unlimited travel during the month of July. So I used it. After morning classes, I would often head to the nearest Underground station.

The London tube is pretty straightforward. Not complicated with numbers, letters, colors and the dreaded express vs. local decision demanded of subway travelers in New York City or Paris. In London, you just pick a colored train route and go. Sometimes, I would take the escalator to a line I had never ridden—the Jubilee or maybe Bakerloo—and ride it to a stop with a name that sounded just as interesting—Elephant and Castle, Piccadilly Circus, West Ham. Sometimes, I popped up in a flea market or in front of a theater. I browsed postcards or splurged on a ticket to a musical or play. Usually, I disembarked in a neighborhood. I walked along row houses with iron fences, or peered through hedges sheltering secret gardens. I crossed unfamiliar streets and made believe that they were mine.

I am not afraid to be lost. No matter where I go, somebody—most people, in fact—know exactly where we are. I just summon courage and ask. Or live in the not knowing. Which is another kind of gift.

Are we on the left bank of the river or the right? Are we heading towards town or away from it? There is something quite freeing about wandering a city and taking it all in. In Toronto, we found a restaurant serving homemade cinnamon rolls. In Paris, we discovered a jungle gym with a merry-go-round. In Germany, we stopped to feed goats.

I am a lousy tourist. If there is a long line at a major attraction or some tower to ascend, I would much rather linger in a café or stroll to a bakery and buy bread. When I travel, I want to feel what it is like to live in a place, not just visit for an hour or a day.

We caught a bus on my birthday that took over an hour to reach our destination. A subway train would have been faster, more direct. But we saw Oxford Street illuminated for the holidays and watched commuters scurrying beneath umbrellas. It was a dark and rainy night in London. And, accidentally on purpose, we breathed it all in.

Lost and Found

Is This Your Diamond Ring?

The kids found a ring at the beach today. Like something out of a movie – appropriate here in LA, I suppose – it tumbled ashore inside a bottle matted in a tangle of seaweed. There was no name, no note, no clue of any kind as to who the owner might be.  Just a diamond ring (real, we think) sealed for safekeeping.  We called the local police department, and the desk officer said they’d be happy to book it into evidence.  Which got the kids thinking . . . what happened?  Is this an engagement gone wrong?  Someone’s jewelry box fallen overboard? A remnant of a memorial ceremony two thousand miles out to sea? Mostly, the kids wondered: Who is missing this ring? And how can we get it back to them?

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We’d love to find the owner, and we’d like your help.  Here’s the thing – I’ve left out some key details about the container in which we found the ring (if it is yours, you will get what I am talking about).  We do not know where this journey started, but hopefully, it does not end with us. If you can help Katie, Lizzie, and Henry solve this mystery to send this ring home, shoot us an email at info@DadvMom.com.

 

Ease

A Case for Summer Screen Time

It’s summer vacation. Woo-hoo!

But now what?

If you are anything like our family, you awoke this morning and lounged – TV, pancakes, jammies ‘til noon. It was probably spectacular.

But now it is 1:15 pm and all the kids want to do is squabble and eat ice cream and melt their brains with the iPad. For today, we just might do that. But what about the rest of the summer? With sloth and gluttony rule the days? We wait all school year to get our kiddos back, but how do we make the most of June, July, and whatever time we are allotted in August? How do we do summer right?

I read a compelling essay last year about offering children unlimited screen time. I confess I only clicked on it to see what kind of nut-job of a parent made that decision. But the reasoning was pretty great. One mom offered her kids unlimited electronics after they completed several previously agreed-upon tasks—the usual things: reading, cleaning, and something active or creative. Her theory was that kids tend to stick with what they start with. Give them a hot glue gun at 9:30 am and chances are they’ll still be crafting when it’s time for lunch. Insist that they read for an hour and they’ll probably keep a nose in a book for two.

I was doubtful, but the kids and I brainstormed our own list and gave it a try. We decided that they could have as much television and iPad time only after:

  1. Reading
  2. Exercise
  3. Something Creative
  4. A Chore

Lots of my ideas die before I ever fully implement them—the one about not washing any clothes until the prior load is folded and put away, the one about no food in the car. But this one, the one where we made a list and ordered our summer really, really worked. Reading daily turned into more trips to the library for reinforcement books, and sunbathing sessions in the backyard with the Junie B. Jones series. Exercise meant walking the dog, biking to the beach, and neighborhood games of sharks and minnows. Creativity flowed freely every single day. The kids wrote books and made birthday cards, and Lizzie taught herself to draw a horse rearing up in a field. Katie composed music, made a radio, played the piano, and distributed homemade donuts to all her friends. In fact, the kitchen became a second playground. We made our own pizza and ice cream, lemon bread, apple sauce, strawberry jam, caramel, and crepes. We rolled our own sushi and experimented with boba tea. And even the chores got done. The kids folded clothes, made their beds, and scrubbed the bathroom with far few complaints than ever before.

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Now they were still my kids. Plenty of days they groused about the list. They still fought over the iPad and who was in charge of the remote. But they also settled into the routine. Our list provided structure – but not too much – and freedom – but not too much. Some days, we breezed through the list and watched too many episodes of Supergirl. Other days, a lot of days, we never got to any screen time at all. We rode our bikes to the pool for exercise and stayed all day. We baked and shared the results. We summered.

And this morning, over pancakes, we made a new list to try it all over again.

Join us. We would love to hear your results.

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Goals & Dreams & Sandwiches

Help! My Baby Stole My Novel

A few years ago, a friend sent me a question.  She was a new mom and she was having a tough time.  The days were long, the diapers were many.  She had grown accustomed to life in the parenting trenches.  But she missed literacy.  Sharpness of mind.  And the friendship of a good book.  What she wanted to know was:  would she ever read again?  What follows is the answer I wrote for her.

Will you ever read again?

The short answer is No.

At least that’s what it will feel like. You will examine warning labels on baby Tylenol. You will peruse pediatric websites at 2 am seeking guidance on teething, green poop, or how to get your baby to leave you alone. You will discover notes to yourself that you do not remember writing. You will read the expression on your partner’s face that tells you s/he is in the mood for love.   S/he will read the expression on your face indicating you are in the mood for cereal. But will you read books? No, probably not.

It is normal that a sensitive, educated parent might miss reading. So, what follows is a 5-step program for reclaiming The Book.

Step 1: Chaucer Coasters

Believe it or not, TV and sleep are necessary pursuits if you ever want to read again. As a new parent, I was wonked out. Despite plans to “revisit the classics” during my maternity leave, whenever I touched a book, I promptly fell asleep. Pick up a book if you must, but then set it down and put a cold drink on it. Books make good coasters. Sip your beverage and catch up with Real Housewives. Check in on The Deadliest Catch. Watch a vacuum cleaner infomercial at 3 am, just to say you have. Slum some with basic cable. When I wasn’t napping, Sex in the City reruns and Ice Road Truckers massaged my brain where literary information had previously been stored. Television helped me hit rock bottom. It is said alcoholics bottom out before seeking help. New parents need to do the same. I once watched eleven cooking shows back-to-back, leaving the couch only to change the baby and toast Pop-tarts. TV saturation gave me the drive to read again.

Step 2: Embrace Kid Lit

A runner returning from an injury doesn’t start with a marathon. A model on maternity leave doesn’t come back for a swimsuit shoot. They stretch, ease in. The same is true of readers. Start slow. Reawaken the memory of simply holding a book. After the birth of my daughter, Katie, my first book had a fabric cover and no discernable title, plot, or, in fact, words. It consisted of three pages – one depicting a doggie, another a kitty, and finally (and always surprising to me), a bunny. It wasn’t much, but those were the first pages I successfully comprehended. We “read” this book often. Before long, legitimately lovely children’s books followed: Goodnight Moon; Runaway Bunny; The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I was educating myself with reruns of Gilmore Girls, but at least I read to my kid. It was a start.

Step 3: Forgive Your Brain

After children’s books, I figured grown-up reads were not far behind. However, babies melt brain cells. As a parent, I was dumber. My husband tells me I confuse left and right for about two years after the birth of each child. This makes reading challenging. Whatever you do, DON’T return to something you were reading pre-baby. Unless you start all over, you will not recall even the basics of the plot. Take my experience with what I am told is a gripping tale of historical intrigue, An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears. I began this novel when I was pregnant, and picked it up again when my daughter was six months old. Technically, I did complete the book, in that I turned each of its pages. But at the end, I was left with two important questions:

  1. What was the Instance to which the title refers?
  2. What exactly was a Fingerpost?

I do not fault Mr. Pears. His characters performed surgeries and ate dinners in consummate detail. But my life was upside down and covered in baby vomit. I could not summon enough info from my first reading to inform the second. My eyes read words that my marshmallow brain refused to process.

Step 4: Forage in the Bathroom

So maybe whole books aren’t the best way to start. Graze instead. Nose through a Pottery Barn catalog; chew on Disney fliers that will magically appear in your mailbox as soon as you have children. I read magazines instead of cleaning house. And because I failed to clean, magazines were everywhere—clogging kitchen counters, cluttering coffee tables, and decorating every bathroom. In fact, most of my after-baby reading happened in the loo. I was alone there. So I dallied. I bopped from article to article, inching back towards literacy. I studied recipes I did not cook, and learned exercises I did not do. I read eight-month-old news articles that were still news to me. Whether my source was Oprah or Obama, I savored every stolen bathroom minute.

Step 5: Recovery: Vampires at the Beach

After magazines, books are yours. Drag your bambino to library story time and start browsing. Don’t be surprised if your stamina has altered during the months (or years) away. If you previously fancied Victorian novels or tended towards tomes with Russian heft, now, even in the dead of winter, you may crave a beach read. Unfamiliar with the genre? Just find a cover with a glassy-eyed woman staring into the mist. With a title like Love Promises or anything After the Harvest. But don’t laze in the sand for too long. Cultivate new interests. I discovered young adult novels after the birth of my daughter, Lizzie. Teen books aren’t all wizards and vampires. The Hunger Games rescued my neighbor from the brink. Looking for Alaska, a sweet and wry little adolescent romance, set me on the road to recovery. Nonfiction was also appealing. Essays were easy to pick up and put down. I found E.B. White again. Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions helped me laugh about parenting. To escape parenting, anything written or breathed upon by David Sedaris was always a good bet.

 

Eventually, the reader in you will resuscitate. For me, it happened one fall. Six years after my first maternity leave, I finally returned to the classics. I curled up late one night in my favorite rocking chair, and thumbed through Pride and Prejudice on my iPhone, with my baby daughter drowsing on my lap. Elizabeth and Darcy saw me through those nighttime feedings. Their flirtatiousness, their wit, their passion…it awakened in me a desire I had not felt in years.* I wanted to keep on reading. And, for once, I did.

 

*Of course, it also awakened in me other desires. Not long after, I was pregnant again, and right back at Chaucer Coasters. But, for a little bit there anyway, there was hope. And I know there will be again.

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A version of this piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.

Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

Be One Another’s Cul-de-sac

A friend and I spent the evening at church tonight. We broke bread with families who needed some. We listened, laughed, and prayed.

After the dishes had been washed and the food put away, we lounged together in a basement rumpus room. The kids invented a new game — ping-pong dodge ball — and the adults daydreamed about a cul-de-sac community where we could let our children play safely all day. Some nights, we all mused, we could wheel our barbecue grills out to the curb for a neighborhood buffet instead of cooking and eating dinner alone.

I drove home feeling both thankful and dispirited. So many of us have so much. We build our homes up and out and bigger and more. We have dishes for twenty, but only ever use five. We build fences where we could plant flowers. We schedule ourselves so tightly that there is no room for generosity, magnanimity, or an impromptu dinner with the people next door.

We make it easy to forget to share.

But we can be better. I can be better. In a world of gated communities, security passcodes, and election seasons that divide rather than unite, summon your kindness, and unleash your love. Be one another’s cul-de-sac.

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Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

The Party Is Just Getting Started

 

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music from the heart.

Poem by Howard Thurman (1899-1981)

Music by Dan Forrest (b. 1978)

One of my least favorite jobs of the year is taking down our Christmas tree. For weeks, it holds a place of honor in our living room, regal and pine-scented in all its branched and baubled loveliness. Then, we undecorate it and toss it on the curb. I’m told the city recycles it, mulches it into something that will breed life again. But I can’t help but feel a little emptiness as we put the lights and angels back into their boxes, and tuck Christmas on the shelf in our garage, to sit and wait another year.

The Christmas season is like a movie trailer – all breathless anticipation and excitement. My kids and I can hardly wait for the big day to arrive. We are so utterly beside ourselves – baking, wrapping, decorating, frolicking. It is easy to wish such easy joy could last. That our friends and family would always open their homes to us so eagerly. That we would always have this much candy lying around to nosh. That we would always feel this warm and wonderful and good and golden about all of humankind.

But if I am being totally honest, the Christmas season is almost too much for me. There is so much fullness, so much chatter, so many crowds. I consume so many cookies. The gifts are torn open with such rapidity. And as much as I love a good party, I find myself limping a little around the new year, craving salad, yoga, and stillness. After so much Christmas-ing, I need to regroup.

Today, with the end of Christmas heavy in our hearts, our family visited a church on a hill in search of a new vista and maybe a new message to begin a new year.

We found it in an a cappella hymn. “The Work of Christmas Begins” burned right through this dim day, and warmed my heart. Because it turns out that the day when we place our lifeless tree on the curb, well, that’s the moment when the real ministry of Christmas starts. In these quiet days after the hullabaloo, now is when we compose ourselves and live the words that we ate, drank, and celebrated only a few days ago. With the tree gone, we have more room to feed the hungry and welcome strangers. With the travel completed, now is the time for our real Christmas journey to begin. To minister to new parents, and offer gifts to the poor. To set aside judgment of faiths and families different from our own. To offer thanks for shelter, warmth, comfort, and love. Now is the time to follow bright stars and dwell in the goodness of all that is possible.

Yes, the parties are over.
But the celebration is just beginning.
And this healing real work of Christmas lasts all year long.

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Awesomeness

Bravery Takes Practice

I took my 10-year-old daughter to the Hollywood sign last week.  On clear days, we can see it from our house, and we’ve always talked about hiking up.  There is an easy route, heavy with tourist traffic, paved and well marked.  There is also a difficult one.  Two miles of rocky terrain and a thousand-foot elevation change.  That was the path we took.  At one point, the rocky trail traversed a ridge with a 300-foot drop on one side.  I made sure to keep Katie close to me for that part.

We’ve gotten better at these sorts of adventures.  I have become more patient.  Katie seldom cries anymore.   And though she is bold by nature, bravery still takes practice.  So, every few weeks, we plan an outing, and we test ourselves.  This time, it was the tough trail to the Hollywood sign. On other occasions, we have hiked the Grand Canyon, canoed white-water rapids, and snorkeled with leopard sharks (that one could have gone better).DadvMom.com_WhyWePracticeBeingBrave_SeaLions

Watching a movie, or playing video games together, would be easier.  And safer too.  Unless, that is, one weighs the risks of a childhood without adventure, of entering adulthood without having learned to navigate real challenges.  Sure, bad things might happen.  But such is the case with most things worth doing.  It’s the case with life itself. For my kids, the best way to learn the difference between risks worth taking, and ones better left alone, is to practice.

After our hike, Katie showed pictures to her friends.  A few were wide-eyed at the sight of the cliff.  She said, “Adventures are worth the mishaps.”  It’s clearly a borrowed phrase, and I am not sure Katie entirely grasps what it means.  But I like that her brain is starting to work that way.  She is beginning to understand the kinds of rewards that such endeavors can bring.  In time, she will appreciate the depth of character they can build.  And although our weekend exploits are mostly about the physical, they do feed another kind of bravery.

Only some of the challenges Katie is sure to face in life will require brawn.  The greatest tests will be moral ones.  I want her to be prepared, bold not only in the face of physical dangers, but brave in the way she treats others.  As proud as I am when she scales a cliff or surfs a big wave, nothing compares to what I feel when she draws on bravery to be kind.  As a ten-year-old, that may be as simple as inviting the new kid to sit with her at lunch – which she has done.  As a grown-up, standing up for others will involve far greater risks.

I can hope against hope that Katie will never be tested that way, never find herself staring down a mob or defending innocent lives in a warzone.  If I had my way, her greatest moral challenges would involve writing op-eds for the local paper or getting the school library to stock good books (you know, the ones with dangerous ideas). But I know my kid.  She is moved by the suffering of others, and will help those in need wherever that may lead.

That is why we practice being brave.  Some day, Katie will have to draw from the well we have filled together.  In that moment, she will learn how deep it goes.  And maybe, if I have done my job right, she will remember my hand on her shoulder, guiding her past the cliffs towards the big white sign over the next ridge.

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A version of this story appeared on Fatherly.com on Nov. 2, 2015.

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, 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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