Pain In The Neck

Pain in the neck is what brought me to the brink, broadsided by a white Ford Explorer at 40-miles-per-hour in the side sliding passenger door of my Honda Odyssey minivan eight years ago en route to an MRI for neck and thoracic pain. A pain I imagine began sometime around my third child and after my mother moved to Colorado. Lying sideways, suspended by a seat belt harness, my burning ear smashed into the side curtain airbag, suffocating by fumes of smoke, I exhaled a sigh of relief my children were not with me. How did I wind up here? My life needed to slow down except for the 8-month-old child with RSV at home, my fourth, who needed his mother’s milk and care. Shards of broken glass poking out of my blood stained flesh, a pounding hematoma in my left ear, interrupted by a constant ringing from the firecracker explosion of impact, warm salty tears of exasperation and hopelessness consumed me.

“No wonder you have pain in your neck,” my mother stated with gusto when the pain became debi…

A Lonely State of Education

Sitting alone at my kitchen table holding a glass of Cabernet, I feel my shoulders release from captivity. Staring at my grandparents' mission style table, its dark wood and deep scratches from a century of abuse, straw no longer poking out of the wooden chairs I've since recovered, I remembered my dad tried to repair the wood; long gone are our table conversations.

It's Valentine's Day and my husband is of course working late, because every day is Valentine's Day after four kids and nearly 24 years of marriage, right? I breathe a sigh of relief. At least the three boys are playing Wii in the basement; their noises of negotiation ensure me I am safe to let down my guard. Dinner can wait. I swirl my glass of wine watching it lap the sides of my stemmed glass. God damnit, why is she still affecting me? The bitch, the teacher who questioned my judgment, walking away and waving me off like a child today. 
Staring at the deep groove in the table that sits six, a groove …

Clash Royale

Clash Royale is not just a popular Supercell video game, it's also what happens when an inch of snow falls in Portland, schools are closed, and your mom tries to go 'old school' banning the use of screen time as long as humanly possible.
"But mom, we already had a snowball fight, there's not enough snow left to build a snowman and the sledding hill is mud! Plus, we already played a board game and foosball, and you made us play soccer and basketball in the street," said my 11-year-old, working every angle.

Hell yes, I told them to go play in the street! Where's the sense of adventure on a day without school? Shaking my head, I marvel at six neighborhood boys who can't find a creative thing to do.

"Can we please play Clash Royale together?" the other boys chime in.

When I was a kid... we walked uphill in an Iowa blizzard of 50 below wind-chill in three feet of snow to school and spent summer hours lost in the woods or neighborhood when left to…

I Matter

My 15-year-old daughter texted me a picture of my blog this week, "ok this is interesting," she wrote. Laughing aloud I learned two things in that moment, the first, that I was literally busted on Santa with enough proof to out me to her brothers, and the second, that she respects my writing enough to read it. I also realized that I matter to my teen.

In all honesty, parenting teens is like climbing Mt. Everest without a guide, doubting your abilities, being attacked by wild animals, struggling for oxygen, feeling weak, and lacking confidence in your ability to survive.

I brace myself as I grab a morning cup of coffee, not entirely sure if a mountain lion or fluffy bunny will show up at the kitchen table before school or after, if we're lucky enough to have time to eat dinner as a family. My mountain climb is never ending with four children and it's a mental Mensa game!

"You made me sound like a bratty kid," she said at the breakfast table the next morning.…

Undercover Christmas Magic

Who knew my former career as an undercover CIA agent with top-secret clearances would prepare me for my largest role as mom to four? Unfortunately my cover was nearly blown for the first time disguised as Santa! Tooth Fairy, Santa, Easter Bunny, you name it, it's an easy job if my husband would only follow my rules...admit nothing, deny everything, make counteraccusations. We still have an 8-year-old and I have undercover magic left to give!

Last Saturday, while counting the Portland Trailblazers basketball tickets Santa had carefully delivered to each of our six stockings, my husband announced we were missing a ticket for seat 7. Oh s*&%! The barcoded ticket I discreetly printed on our color printer must've been thrown away with the wrapping paper on Christmas Day. How was I possibly going to cover my tracks and print another ticket without the kids knowing in the ten minutes before we left?

"Santa's cheap!" sang my 13-year-old son laughing. Granted, the elv…

The Blessing of Time

Today is the final day of 'Winter Break'; New Year's Day and I am thankful for time.

The kids have had too much screen time, too much time eating candy, too much pestering time, and too much time supervised by parents, so I did what any good parent would do and kicked them out of the house! It's a new year and the sun is shining, even in Portland, so time to get on with those New Years' resolutions...right? I'd rather reflect on the blessing of 'time' by writing alone, as best I know how.

I am thankful to have experienced 18 days together with my four children and husband. Who says that?

I'm not sure we've ever had 18 days together without an insane schedule of activities! Sure, I could do without the week confined to the same travel sleeping quarters with my son and husband coughing like barking dogs at midnight, poor souls, but I'm thankful for that time of forced family fun, especially since our teenage daughter all too ready to fly the co…


Tripping over shoes is exactly why I agreed to a puppy, as if four kids isn't enough. Leave your shoes at your own risk with this terror around. You can tell by his shifty eyes he's up to no good!

Unfortunately this cuddly deterrent, capable of devouring his weight in Christmas ornaments, hasn't scared my 15-year-old daughter, the Imelda Marcos of footwear, who has no less than a closet full of shoes laying around on any given day. I have threatened to throw her shoes on the porch with her three brothers' fragrant locker room beauties, however, that's become an expensive proposition with three pairs of hers already stolen.

Apparently her fashion style is in high demand and less rancid than the boys', so I opted for a shoe rack inside, allowing two pairs at a time while training the puppy the rack is off limits. Needless to say, my advanced math teenage daughter cannot count. She entirely consumes the upper rack and most of the floor on any given day, as I'…