I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE OF WATCHING MY DAUGHTERS, ELEANOR, 10, AND ABIGAIL, 8, GROW UP. AT TIMES, I FEEL OUTNUMBERED IN A FAMILY WHERE THE FEMALE-TO-MALE RATIO (COUNTING OUR TWO GUINEA PIGS, S’MORES AND NIBBLES) IS FIVE-TO-ONE. THOUGH MY WIFE, BETH, AND I SHARE PARENTING DUTIES, SOME GIRL-SPECIFIC TASKS ELUDE ME. I ADMIT, MY PONY TAILS ARE ALWAYS LOPSIDED.
Despite this shortcoming, I’m proud I can pack a picnic in minutes, and when I make breakfast, it always ends up having two eyes and a mouth. If I pack the school lunchbox, you know it has a special note, maybe encoded as a secret stretchy rubber band message—write the note on a rulerstretched rubber band, then when it shrinks back to normal size, the note is unreadable unless you know the secret.
As a professor, I have my summers off, and I spend a lot of time with my daughters. I love taking them to concerts and cultural events. Over the years, we’ve gone from walking with one girl in the backpack to being able to ride our own bikes.
The pelican that spent the night in our garage.
Nothing surprises me about animals. Their instinct is infallible. They ferret out harbors for help or handouts, and their radar drives them to reliable sources. Our acreage on a hill surrounded by trees is one of those harbors.
THEY ARE WELCOME
Four grown children repeat this “welcoming” stamp. All of them have several pets in their own homes. As a teenager, our eldest daughter, who now teaches third grade at Riverside Central Elementary School in Rochester, once lured a shaggy, golden-eyed Airedale home, thankfully stopping short of inviting him into the car, as he smelled like a skunk. After a tomato juice bath, he happily joined the family.
I began my bat catching apprenticeship right out of college. I lived with my cousin Corinn, and we had a little bit of a bat problem. In the six months I lived with her, we successfully caught six bats. Our first one was caught about four months into our roommate-ship. You do the math.
MY FEARLESS LEADER
Corinn was my fearless leader, and I was her trusty sidekick. After our very first catch-and-release, we came up with a plan. The plan was executed in nearly every hunting endeavor (except the time we found the bat in the washing machine), and it worked beautifully. I’ll let you in on our secret. You need four things to successfully catch a bat: a broom, an empty garbage can, a broken-down cereal box and courage. When the broom has successfully knocked the flying rodent to the ground, gather your courage and cover it with the empty garbage can. From there, slide the cereal box underneath the can to trap the little monster, then release it into the wild.
If you’re on social media, you’ve seen it: a single piece of furniture, surrounded by shiny white walls, with nothing else in the room but a perfectly placed lamp and fur throw—free of clutter and distractions. This phenomenon taking over your news feed is what some people refer to as “minimalism.” When put into tiny little pictures sprinkled across your screen, it looks attainable, even simple. That’s what I thought anyway, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Before I share my minimalism journey, I suppose I should start from what I consider to be the reason I’ve gotten myself into this situation. I was in eighth grade and out with my parents, when we ran into my best friend’s mom. After a bit of small talk, she said, “So did you hear what our daughters have been scheming?” Fear filled my eyes. What was she going to say?
As a mom or having been a child, you are likely familiar with things kids love but moms hate (I’m looking at you, Play-Doh). Moms also encounter things that they love and kids hate. Do any on this list resonate with you?
SHOPPING FOR CLOTHES
There are moms who love to shop till they drop. It’s a scavenger hunt for that perfect item to make the trip a success. They love it. Not kids. If you’ve taken a preteen shopping for anything other than athletic socks, you may agree. Between the eye rolling and sighs of discontent, there is little actual shopping done, and it is far from fun (for anyone).
Backrubs are my love language. Flowers are nice. Letters are sweet. Help with the dishes is glorious. But the key to my heart? The secret to my swoon? A good old-fashioned shoulder rub from my hubby. Add a foot rub, and it’s an extra special night. If a little head massage comes into play? Melt!
Men, roll your eyes and groan if you must, but you have got to trust me on this one. Women, you know it’s true. A massage without expectations? Tenderness just because? Priceless.
Maybe it’s the comfort level. There’s no one who knows me as well as my man, and there’s nowhere as comfy as our own living room. Or maybe my aching body just needs the attention. After all, hundreds of research studies boast of the health benefits of massage. Or maybe, I just sort of like to be pampered.
“We need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, 12 hugs a day for change, 16 hugs a day for transformation.” – Jack Canfield, Author, “Chicken Soup for the Soul”
There is scientific evidence that a hug a day can save your life. “Scientists are increasingly interested in the possibility that positive emotions can be good for your health. Support from a partner, even in a hug from a loved one, can have beneficial effects on heart health,” Dr. Manny Alvarez wrote for Fox News. Hugs may (or may not) be your norm with friends and family, but everyone could use a hug from time to time.
I AM A HUGGER
Everyone I meet knows that I am a hugger, more so now than ever. For the last three years, I have been wearing a pin that says iHug™. It is an experiment to see how people react. Some look at it like it is promoting some type of technology. You can see the wheels turning in their mind…iPad, iPod, iHug? As they say it to themselves, it hits them, and they will throw out their arms with a big “I hug too” for a warm embrace. In other cases, it is a warning to people that I am coming in for a hug. If you wish to avoid it, you’ll need to stop me.
It was in the school supply aisle at Target that reality struck. The rest of the civilization had gone back to school that morning, and after five years of our own beautiful experience in a public school, we had made the inexplicable decision to homeschool.
THIS COULD BE TROUBLE
“Stick close to the cart!” I commanded my three kids. “If anyone talks to you, smile sweetly and act super polite!” I wasn’t even sure we were allowed to be out in public as the rest of the world’s children were tucked away in classrooms. Our first day was still a week away, but the panic, as we teetered on the edge of the unknown, had already set in.
Are you online dating? Yes, I’m asking if you are online dating. I know what you’re thinking: There are a lot of creeps out there. So, no one really wants to admit to doing it.
The reality is people have been searching all over the world for a love connection on different mediums for decades. According to Lee (2016), finding love many moons ago existed through personal ads and even further back in history, lonely shepherds would carve works of art into tree bark to communicate their longing for human contact. It was inevitable that through the creation of internet, online dating would become one of the most popular attractions (literally) to browse on the internet. Match.com capitalized on the interest and debuted their site in 1995.
It’s confession time. For my husband’s 40th birthday, our family went to Disney World. For my 40th birthday, we went again. While your mind wrestles with the weirdness of adults choosing a Disney park over an all-inclusive beach vacation, I’ll also confess that we had already visited both Disney World and Disneyland.
DON’T LIKE DISNEY?
There are people who DON’T think Disney World is the happiest place on earth. Some of them don’t even think it’s happy. In fact, some have zero desire or intent on taking their children to meet Cinderella and ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
Understandably, there are many people who can’t afford a Disney vacation. But, it’s the ones who can and choose not to that intrigue me. What’s not to love about roller coasters, fireworks, musicals and sunshine? It’s the ultimate, harmonious family experience at a place that smells like cinnamon.