Rolling Backward Through the Years

A motorcycle that sits three across: wider than my car.
A motorcycle that sits three across: wider than my car.

“How do you know that won’t roll backward over you?” I asked.

I asked, “Shouldn’t you put something behind the tire?”

I added, “That doesn’t look safe.”

These were just a few of my comments as the Man I Married worked behind his motorcycle and double-wide sidecar on our sloping driveway.Read More »

Snide-ex with Stridex

The Little Monkey, once known as thteenagers2e Little Monster, turns 13 this month.

Since we met him close to his 6th birthday, this means we have finally tipped the scales: He’s now been our son for more than half his life. Last year’s milepost of being a family for half his life seemed it would never get here, but now the time is rushing by, and our scales will soon look like the heavily lopsided comparison of our wedding-day weights to our current poundage.

According to my bossy sidekick, Merriam-Webster, “teenage” begins at age 13, so I dread a return to more Monster than Monkey. The L is also now more Large than Little.

However, as I dozed off to an audio book recently—as I do at an embarrassing early hour every evening, missing great swaths of books but still proclaiming I have “read” them—my eyes popped open at this sentence by Bill Bryson:

The word teenager had only been coined in 1941.*

Even more incredibly, I remembered the sentence the next morning.

Teenagers as we currently know them (and wished we didn’t) did not exist 75 years ago?

If you ask me, it’s no coincidence that a World War began in the same year as the birth of the term teenager.Read More »

Bird-Brained Birdventure

Mom's Bird Picture (see it? on the post?)
Western Meadowlark. On the post. Really.

John James Audubon was quite the artist, managing to draw all those birds in exquisite detail after maddeningly brief glimpses of flitting creatures so like my almost-thirteen-year-old son: They. Will. Not. Sit. Still. Since halfheartedly taking up birding, which the Little Monkey then shanghaied from me and ran with like a roadrunner on acid, my estimation of Audubon’s skills grew, unlike my birding skills.

But turns out that while modern birders have digital cameras that shoot off hundreds of frames in an instant, Audubon had a gun, and he shot a few hundred birds dead for each of his drawings.

While this morbid discovery was distasteful for this lapsed vegetarian who cannot eat chicken on the bone, I understood that mores have changed: Audubon was a man of his time, in which human life was superior to other life forms, especially when it came to watercolors. But why not, say, five dead birds for each drawing? Or twenty? Why hundreds? Because he wanted the perfect specimen. Now when I look at his drawings, I also see a heap of feathered corpses.

But standing on a high, dusty ridge in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by torpid windmills that could not bring themselves to move in the near 100-degree heat, neck craned back to get a bead on a circling hawk to determine if it was a Rough-Tailed or another hawk, all of which look identical to me, I myself felt the urge to just shoot the fucking thing out of the sky so we could identify the carcass and get the hell back to paved roads and air-conditioning.Read More »

About the French Toast

While on our Bird-Brained Birdventure…

French toast2Okay, so then there’s the part about coming across the Dying Baby Bird on the Ground on our walk the next morning. The Dying Baby Bird on the Ground took an hour of parental problem-solving, reasoning, comforting, and bull-shitting (the parents won’t come to help it until we leave) before we could finally get a move-on as the relatively cool morning 85-degree temp crept up toward the triple-digits.

Then there was my having to pee on that same walk, and asking occasional passersby how far to the bathroom; the answers varied widely, and the bathroom got no closer. One gentleman jogger answered me in Spanish, so I queried him about “el bano?” He replied in Spanish and hand gestures, and I nodded, comprehending most of what he said, based on high school Spanish and the super powers one attains when having to pee very badly. I replied, “Gracias.”

The Little Monkey gave me a High Five, Mom! for being bilingual.Read More »

Mother-Son Bonding is for the Birds

Crows on a Human Walk
Crows out on a human walk

We stood and listened to the bird banging away at its tiny typewriter in the bushes. As is often the case with bird “watching,” we could only hear the bird, not watch it.

“That’s an Anna’s hummingbird,” my middle-schooler, the Little Monkey, informed the group of a dozen adult birders.

“Actually,” said the Audubon Master Birder who led the guided walk, her head cocked to listen, “that’s a Junco.”

“No, that’s a hummingbird,” LM corrected her.

She listened for a moment, then repeated gently, “Mmm, Junco.”

My son corrected the Master Birder twice more. When a rush of movement indicated that the bird had flown off for a smoke break, LM chased after it, in order to prove himself correct.

“How does your son know so much?” a woman asked me.

“He’s twelve,” I answered, “which means he knows everything.”Read More »

Pondering the Annual Science Fair

science project3
He wins the “I’m now twice as tall as my trifold board” award.

Here are the reasons for our school system’s annual horror of the trifold-board science project:

  1. to keep the trifold-board-making company in business and thus support the economy
  2. to give parents a better appreciation of science teachers
  3. to ask what the fuck are we paying the science teachers for?
  4. for parents to display their parenting philosophy for the edification of other parents as we all trudge around the fucking cafeteria looking at other parents’ trifold projects (when we would rather be home surfing Craigslist or Amazon but saying that we are working), determining whether each is an example of whether they
    • are a hands-on parent (i.e. I did the project for him, and that ribbon is mine for my efficiency in dispatching a stupid assignment in which nobody learns anything except where the trifold boards are located at the superstore)
    • encourage independence and creative problem-solving (I drained the whiskey bottle while he did it himself)
    • are an involved parent with Montessori leanings but believe in supporting the public school system (we did it together because otherwise our Kumbaya-raised kid was never going to get it done while he played Mortal Kombat instead).

Read more about the Little Monkey’s birding science project HERE.

12th Mom, Her 12-Year-Old, Their 7th Mother’s Day

The Other Woman in His Life
How about hooking that hose to my vein for Mother’s Day?

“I think it’s a really bad idea that you’re going to be gone for the whole entire Mother’s Day, Dad,” our twelve-year-old Little Monkey said to the Man I Married.

Wise child.

MIM responded, “Your mother and I give each other a lot of freedom to follow our dreams.”

Quick thinker.

He continued, “Your mom had to be gone all day yesterday to follow her dream, so she doesn’t mind that I’m gone all day on Mother’s Day to follow mine.”

Much as MIM’s masterful at pulling split-second malarkey out of his derriere, he also spoke the truth. It would be splitting hairs to point out that I’ve spent twenty years chasing one dream, while he’s spent our marriage chasing twenty, and I thought fatherhood was going to end his following the next shiny fantasy twinkling over the next green hill. But adoption papers don’t come with a “required personality change” clause, so I’m not sure why either one of us thought that would be true.

Read More »

12th Mom Fumbles the Pass

russell-wilson-crying-larrybrownsportsI did something terrible: when Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson broke down and cried (and cried) (and cried) at the last-minute, miraculous win of a really important football game—I laughed.

It’s not what you think.

I laughed and mimicked him because of the spectacle being made over a football game. I would have laughed no matter who was crying: the mascot, the coach’s wife, the guy who makes sure the big Thermos is full so they can dump cold sticky stuff all over each other because that’s the most imaginative gesture these guys can come up with to celebrate a victory, the janitor who has to clean that shit up off the shower room floor and towels.

I did not laugh because a grown man was crying. Not just any grown man, but a macho symbol of a sport in which the men wear leotards and face paint and slap each other on their tight buns. I mean, a macho symbol of a sport in which strength, brutality, rape, wife beating, child beating, child molestation, head injuries, suicide, monotone narration in TV commercials, and DUIs are more common than a man’s tears. Not just any man’s tears, but an athlete who is man enough to cry publicly (not that he had a choice about the public part, with every camera in the United States on the field with him instead of off filming Kim Kardashian’s bottom).

Read More »

When Momster’s Not ‘Beast’


“Ew, gross!” the Little Monkey shrilled from the bathroom. I think the same thing almost every morning when I discover that he’s forgotten to flush. How can something of such impressive dimensions come from that small body? You’d think I’d learn and hit the flipper before I lift the lid.

“Disgusting!” he kvetched. “What is that in the sink?”

I quickly comprehended the subject of his considerable dramatic skills. “It’s just my teabag. Sorry. It must have still been in my cup when I dumped my tea out. Just throw it away.”

“Ew! You mean touch it?”

“It’s. A. Teabag. I think you’ll survive. It’s not hot.”

“But, but…” His sounds of revulsion required only a John Williams soundtrack with plaintive French horns. You’d think he was eating slugs.Read More »


I. Aversion Therapy

Sinking Bridge (WSDOT photo, 1990)
Sinking Bridge (WSDOT photo, 1990)

I drive the Little Monkey from Seattle across Lake Washington to Bellevue for biweekly counseling, a drive I avoided for all of my previous 20 pre-motherhood years in Seattle. If a friend moved across the lake? Sayonara. I’d mail postcards. They might as well have moved to Tokyo for all they were likely to see me in their new neighborhood. Ballard to Bellevue consists of three freeway merges and, not long ago, a shift in consciousness akin to Appalachia to Manhattan. Others tackle this west-to-east journey daily to work at Microsoft or shop at the upscale Bellevue Mall, but while I managed to tolerate traveling from the Pacific to Atlantic Oceans and back on the back of a too-small motorcycle, I eschewed this epic psychological journey. Not only was there the matter of traffic (I laugh now at my notions of “traffic” 25 years ago): there were the little matters that, in the not too distant past, one of the lake’s two bridges sank, and the other raised its drawspan while cars were still crossing.

As if the drive across the floating bridge isn’t traumatic enough, LM’s therapist practices what I call “aversion therapy.” He tells stories about the misdeeds his other young clients have been up to, which have led to the ruin and devastation of themselves and their families. One family could have put their kid through college on what they spent on court costs, all for naught: the stepdad then dumped the boy’s mom, and the stepdad lost custody of his own biological children. Because of this teenage boy, the family was fractured and bankrupt, utterly and totally. I pictured the boy and his mom in a basement studio apartment eating TV dinners. How could the mother go on with nurturing and unconditional love while eating her tiny compartment of apple pie after polishing off a spindly fried drumstick?Read More »