Top 10: Lessons I Learned from My Parents



I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all learned things from our parents–some intended and some…not so much.

10.) If you want a piece of machinery to work better, you need to swear loudly and profusely at it. I’ve seen this demonstrated with boat motors, tractor engines, combines, arc welders, and gas grills. I’ve used this technique myself with cars, computers, and sewing machines. Dad was right. Machines respond better when they know who’s in charge.

9.) Knitting is cheaper than therapy (unless you buy really, really nice yarn, and then you probably still break even). I don’t know that this bit of wisdom was ever verbalized, but it was certainly demonstrated on the regular. Thanks for teaching me the art of therapeutic knitting! (Full disclosure: sometimes I swear loudly and profusely at my knitting, too.)

8.) You can always use a good piece of rope. This is one of those things I remember hearing all the time as a kid. Literally all the time. And my dad always had various lengths of rope or baling twine to fix stuff. And he wasn’t wrong about that advice, either. This is a link to a thing I wrote for his retirement party a few years ago…involving a good piece of rope.

7.) Do what it takes to follow your dreams. This is one of those double whammy kind of lessons that I got from both sides–from both the parent who did and the parent who didn’t. My dad grew up on a working dairy farm and he was a journeyman welder and did maintenance on the kinds of machines you find in metal fabrication factories.

My mom grew up on a small sustenance farm and became am OR nurse. However, she realized really quickly that wasn’t what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. So she went back to school and double majored in psychology and philosophy and graduated at the top of her class. Then, she went on for her master’s in psych and her her doctorate. She ended up becoming a psychology professor and a leading expert in child development.

Just a few years ago, I found out that what my dad really wanted to do was teach history and write westerns. I wish he would have. I think he would have been happier.

6.) Life is too short to stay married to someone who isn’t right for you. This right here was a huge gift. I was sad that my parents divorced, but it was truly the best gift they could have given us kids and themselves. Everyone was happier, and I learned that it’s crucial not to sacrifice your happiness for anyone else and not to allow them to sacrifice theirs for you.

5.) It’s possible to be so tired that you can do some really fucked up stuff when you’re exhausted. That shit will become family legend. My mom once washed a load of clothes with maple syrup. She also once made quiche with spearmint instead of parsley. It was the literal. worst. (My brother Tim still ate about it, but he bitched the entire time.) I shaved a big chunk of hair off the top of my head thinking my razor was a comb.

4.) Wildly inappropriate lullabies are the best lullabies. My mom rarely sang us traditional lullabies. We got a lot of Simon and Garfunkel, Beatles, Carly Simon, Carole King, and John Denver and the occasional Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot. I kept up the tradition with my kids with a lot of Dar Williams, Tori Amos, Kate Rusby, and other fantastically morbid Celtic folk songs.

3.)Once upon a time” are four of the most powerful words in the world. Both my parents were (and are) huge readers. And my mom always read to us. I loved story time, and I loved it even more with my own kids. Some of my favorite memories involve cuddling up with my kids and books.

2.) There’s no such place as “away”. Stuff doesn’t magically disappear when we get rid of it or throw it away. Donate what’s still useful and recycle everything you can. Yeah, mom was/is a bit of a hippie. And I’m okay with that.

1.) Unconditional love is everything. It’s the best thing my parents taught me, and I hope that it’s the best thing I’m teaching my own kids.

What kinds of things did you learn from your parents? I can’t wait to check out the rest of the parental lessons, and you can too by clicking on the bloggers’ names. Jessica, Jess, Kellie, Paige, and Deelylah.

My Kid is a Hilarious, Hilarious Jerk – Update

Okay, so some of you may remember a couple months ago when my daughter, Killian, tormented me with images of a certain creepyass dog.  If you don’t remember that, you may want to check that out first, or this post won’t make a whole lot of sense.

I feel like some of you will be delighted to know that I completely forgot that the dog picture was taped to my driver’s license, and I didn’t even look at it before handing it to the pharmacist when I was picking up my Adderall. a few weeks ago. It was only when he started laughing that I realized the damn picture was still on there. And of course it was the hot pharmacist… I ended up having to explain the whole thing, and he thought it was hilarious.


Other than that, I haven’t really given the dog a whole lot of thought lately.

Until I got out of the shower, this morning.

I went to put on my glasses and…



I immediately hollered for Killian who had no idea what I was talking about. Then we heard the snickering from the other room. Apparently, Corwin decided to pick up where his sister had left off.

Little shits.

The Origins of Pumpkin Carving According to My Twisted, Twisted Child

Last night during pumpkin carving, this horrible, horrible conversation with my sons took place.

Killian: How did pumpkin carving even become a thing?

Me: Well-

Corwin: *talking over me* Long, long ago, it was the time of The Great Pumpkin Wars – where pumpkins of old battled our neanderthal ancestors. The neanderthals won, of course, having opposable thumbs and clubs and all. And winning gave them the right to murder and decorate future pumpkin children for generations to come.

Killian and I look at each other in horror. Okay, I admit, I was totally giggling.

Killian: *finding his voice first* What the fuck!? What the actual fuck is wrong with you, man? Seriously? How do you-? I don’t even…

Me: Does this mean you’re not going to finish carving your pumpkin?

Corwin *looks quietly gleeful*

Killian: I’ll finish it, but I’m not sure I want to share a room with that kid any more. 

Yep. These are the ones I have. 

Made ’em myself. 

Oh, and these are the pumpkins we made!


Please send wine…and maybe Valium.

For those keeping score at home, Matt’s still in Singapore and I won’t be seeing him until the 14th or 15th of October, so I’m doing the Dance of the Single Parent. Which, to be fair, isn’t too bad. The boys are great, and it’s not like they’re toddlers or something.While I miss their toddlerhood, I’d rather do the dance with teenagers.

I don’t sleep well when he’s not here, and that’s what I blame the following on. Lack of sleep. We just finished up the second full week of school and I foolishly agreed to let Corwin have an overnight with some of his friends from his old school. Four of them to be exact. So there are six teenage boys in my house right now.

I’ll go ahead and let that sink in for a minute.

Six. Teenage. Boys.

One of them does the best Gollum impression I’ve ever heard. Seriously, this kid is amazing. However, he won’t. stop. talking.

At all.

It’s all Gollum all the time. He’s now proposing marriage via google video chat to girls from his school. Unsurprisingly, there are no takers.

I just talked to Matt via skype. He’s twelve hours ahead us, and he’s never been so happy to be working away from home.

EDIT: One of the other kids is now doing Dr. Evil.

It’s gonna be a long night. 

Where’s science when I need it?

Summer’s ending. It feels like autumn is rolling toward me like that big rock in the first Indiana Jones movie.

My oldest son, Killian, is starting college today. (I’m totally crying on the inside. Okay, probably a little on the outside, too.) It’s not that I want him to be a kid forever, it’s just that I want to have a rewind button, where I can go back and visit his being a kid whenever I’m having a day like today.

Seriously, science…is that too damn much to ask?!

My youngest son, Corwin, will be starting high school next week. (Please see the aforementioned crying and need of a rewind button.) I would give just about anything to play pirate ship right now.

But honestly, I know I have nothing to actually bitch about. I have great kids who are healthy and happy, and I know it’s more than some parents have, so really, I shouldn’t whine.

We’re trying to get ready for hubby to go to Singapore for a freaking month. I’m not a fan of the Dance of the Single Parent. It’s not because I can’t do it alone. I can, just fine, as a matter of fact. But we really miss him while he’s gone. And I know he misses us, too.

I’m still trying to get used to my sister being gone. As it stands now, we probably won’t see each other until after Christmas, because that’s just the way life’s working out. It’s not like we can’t talk or text, or email, but it’s not the same as hanging out together.

I’m also trying to come to terms with dying relatives – relatives for whom an entire set of matching, monogrammed emotional baggage is included.  

Add in the stress of conference prep, and I’m just about fried.

So I’ll just be here, trying to outrun that big ass boulder and waiting for science to catch up with my need for a rewind button.

C’mon, science! I’m counting on you!

Of Boys, Battles and Black Holes

Last Friday, I took Killian, Justin and Not-Kevin out for our annual end of the year breakfast at iHop. I asked the hostess to seat us away from everyone else, explaining that it was just better that way. But she apparently didn’t get the clue, and put us smack in the middle of the restaurant.

While we were waiting for the food, they came up with an idea for a screenplay involving super polite Canadian zombies who actually ask before biting. And there was a Mountie in there too who was too polite to say no when the zombies asked, so…

My favorite part was when Not-Kevin did dialogue illustrating the differences between Yooper, Canadian and Minnesotan accents. It was brilliant.

That same day, Corwin had a civil war reenactment at school involving marshmallows and a water balloon cannon that he’d made with his friends Gray and Andrew using a length of PVC pipe and a little tykes shopping cart. I wish I’d thought to get a picture of it, because it was pretty brilliant.

Corwin was, of course, bitter because “no one was following the rules of war.” I told him I didn’t think there were rules to war. I got the look and a scathing, “they could at least try to have some honor is all I’m saying.”

Saturday was the first of the graduation parties. I was totally channeling my mother, because in addition to the check for Justin, I was also knitting him a pair of slippers. I’d finished one before I’d gotten there, but I still had about four rows plus decreasing for the toe, so I decided to just finish them while I was there. Because I am my mother’s daughter, I’d brought my yarn needle and scissors so I could finish those bad boys up. Justin was thrilled because his feet are always cold.

While we were sitting outside visiting (and knitting) it started to rain, so I hauled my purse and knitting bag inside. It cleared up, so we went back out. Rinse, repeat. Finally, it was time to go and one of the other guests couldn’t find her car keys anywhere. We did the obligatory glancing around, but they were nowhere to be found. I had to get Not-Kevin home, so we took off. We got about twenty miles away when the phone rang. It was Justin’s mom asking me to look in my purse for the keys. I said that we’d look, but I was sure they weren’t there.

Yeah. About that.

Her keys were totally in my purse.

Had to drive alllllll the way back and shamefacedly drop them off. I still have no clue how they got in there. Killian has a theory, though. His theory is that my purse is a black hole and while we were outside, my purse was actually sucking the moisture from the air causing it to rain which is why it stopped every time we went into the house. And at some point, it sucked the keys into gaping maw, too.

So. Embarrassed.

Yesterday was quiet. We were supposed to go out to eat and celebrate our anniversary (23 years! O.O) and my birthday, but the boys and Matt both caught my damn cold…so celebrating will have to wait. But I did have a fantastic post birthday lunch today with Brynn Paulin, Mia Watts and Jennifer Armintrout!

Changes on the Horizon

The end of the school year is winding down and I’ve been completely crazypants trying to keep up with everything.

Killian graduates from high school next month, and Corwin graduates from 8th grade. I’m trying to plan Killian’s grad party and if I learned anything from throwing my mom a surprise birthday party in March is that I hate planning parties.

I don’t mind going to parties. I don’t mind bringing a dish to pass, but I hate planning parties. There’s “food math” involved and logistics. And anyone who’s read this blog more than once knows that neither math, nor logistics, are my friends.

Or schedules, really.

So basically, I’m pretty much screwed, here.

But I did finally get around to ordering Killian’s senior pictures. The ones we had taken way back in October. o.O And they look great. And we did plan a menu for the party. So…that’s something.

I think mostly this is all about me hating change and not being ready to have one kid in college and the other in high school. I’m not ready for them to grow-up. I realize that’s the point of the whole thing, but dealing with it gracefully doesn’t seem to be in my skill set.

I think it’s one of the reason’s Maurice Sendak’s death hit me so hard last week. One more constant from my kids’ childhood is gone. But, even though it makes me rashy and nervous, change is inevitable, and I’m proud of the men they’re becoming.

Now, it’s time to make sure Corwin has everything for his field trip to Washington DC. His idea of essentials and my idea of essentials compromise two very different lists. Any guesses as to which one of us has deodorant at the top of the list?

Why Siri is a better mom than me…

So…Killian has been saving his money, and when his phone contract came up for renewal, he decided to get the new iPhone 4S. If you’re unfamiliar with this little gem, the 4S has a virtual assistant. You can speak to it and it’ll do speech to text, it’ll call people and it’ll answer questions. For instance, this morning he asked Siri how many were left ’til Christmas. My blood ran cold when she announced “62 days” in her smug sounding computerized voice.

However, Siri’s been a ton of fun and really useful. I particularly love that whoever programed her has a great sense of humor. The other day, Cait asked Killian to have Siri look up something and she came back with some wonky suggestions.

The following conversation ensued.

Then he rephrased the question and got something even wonkier.

Cait: HA! She totally called him on his language. Siri’s a better mom than you!


So Caitlin, being the best little sister in the world, drove the boys to and from school yesterday so Matt and I could spend the day together. (Yes – he’s finally home from Russia!)

The following conversation was had when she brought them home.

Cait: Well, have fun with your delinquent .

Me: Fwuh?

Cait: Corwin, tell your parents what you did at school today.

Me: Oh…god…what?

Corwin: I figured out a good way to make some extra cash.

Matt: Oh…god…how?

Corwin: Well, remember that chocolate muffin the principal gave me last week?

Me: Yeah-huh.

Corwin: And remember how I don’t like chocolate Halloween candy?

Killian: Because you’re a freak.

Corwin: Well, I sold it at school.

Me: You sold a week old chocolate muffin…and Halloween candy.

Corwin: And I made two dollars and twenty-five cents.

Me: *facepalm*

Killian: HA! I totally called it! I told you she’d facepalm and she just did!

Yep…those are the ones I have…