Manikin Panickin’

“Mom, I got VATted today,” Amy said as she came through the front door. Neither success or defeat was conveyed.

“Oh yeah, how’d it go?” She had told me about some of the other lifeguards getting VATted so I knew what she was talking about.

“I failed. Big time. It was so embarrassing.”

She had been through a weekend of rigorous lifeguard training two months prior and was required to get a certain number of inservice hours each month to ensure her training remained fresh and up-to-date. In addition, she, and the other guards, would occasionally be VATted. This, her first time to experience it, was during her second full week of guarding.

“I was guarding the deep end and there were only three people using it. I knew where they all were and none of them were in the water. One was standing on the edge, one was talking to her friend by the hot tub, and the other was walking to the diving board.” Having been to this pool several times, I pictured the scene in my mind. “So, I’m just standing there, keeping an eye on these people, and this little boy comes up behind me and taps on me. Tap, tap, tap. I look down. He’s about six. He says, ‘That man over there threw a baby doll in the water. Aren’t you supposed to get it?’

“OMG,” I said, knowing how she must have felt. To have a little kid see the baby doll go in, to have him know that she’s getting tested, to have him come and tell her she might just want to rescue it.

“Yeah. So, I only have 20 seconds to get the manikin to the surface. It’d probably been down there for over a minute already. Maybe two. So I jump in and go down for it. And I didn’t have enough air. I couldn’t get it. I had to resurface and try again. And that little kid watched me the whole time. Probably the whole place did.”

“I’m sorry, honey.” I thought back to her training stories. She had brought up real live grown men who were hanging out on the bottom of the pool, waiting to be “rescued.” So I knew she could bring the baby up, that she had the skills to do it.

“So what happens if you fail a VAT?” I asked. I invested nearly $400 for her to become a lifeguard, from the training course to the red lifeguard suits and shorts and guard t-shirts and then the expensive Chaco sandals that would provide enough support for standing all day and wouldn’t fall off when she jumped in for a rescue. I hoped she wouldn’t be fired. More important, though, I didn’t want her to fail, to think she wasn’t competent enough. This was her first real job. It demanded a lot of responsibility for a 15-year-old, but I knew she could do it.

I thought back to my lifeguarding days. I remember taking a course that was several weeks long, but after passing that and getting hired by the city where I grew up, I had no further training. And I lifeguarded for three summers.

“Since I didn’t pass, I’ll get VATted a lot over the next two weeks. And if I continue to fail, I’ll get fired.”

“Oh, I think you’ll do okay the next time it happens. You’ll be ready.”

“Me, too.” Now she sounded confident. “I learned a lot today. I’m kind of glad it happened the way it did because I realize I wasn’t scanning the bottom. We were trained to scan the bottom, kind of like scanning your mirrors in driver’s ed. We’re supposed to do it on a schedule. And I wasn’t doing that. I didn’t think it was necessary since I knew where my three people were. But now I know. I have to do it all the time.”

I loved what I was hearing–not only that she realized the VAT was a good learning experience, but she already knew what to take away from it.

Several weeks later, I had my own experience with the VAT manikin. I was swimming laps at the outdoor pool. The big, busy outdoor pool. The lap lanes are in the center of the pool, a calm, quiet oasis between the crowded shallow part of the pool and the hectic deep end with the diving boards. No one who isn’t swimming laps is supposed to be in the lap lanes and no one’s supposed to cut across them to get from one end of the pool to the next.

I was in the far lane, the one next to the deep end. Whenever I front crawled in this lane, I could see how the bottom of the pool dropped off, right under the rope, sloping from about five feet deep beneath me to twelve under the diving boards. At the end of the lane was a lifeguard stand. When I’d stop swimming to take a breather, I’d nonchalantly check out the guard there, to see how engaged he or she was, to see if I could notice elements of the training that my daughter had told me about.

Sometimes the guards used the stand, sometimes they didn’t and instead stood on the edge, or paced back and forth, moving, watching, scanning.

As I approached the wall, doing breast stroke, on the day I think of as my VAT day, I could see the red of a lifeguard standing near the edge of the pool, a watery figure through my goggles as I lifted my head to breathe. Two quick reports of the whistle, the leaping figure, and the giant splash not five feet from me seemed to happen simultaneously, the wake pushing me sideways, even with the rope there to squelch it, and I knew instantaneously what all of this was about.

The lifeguard had jumped in to save someone!

I took one more stroke and was at the wall, turning my body back and toward the deep end. What was going on? I shoved my goggles up on my cap to get a clearer picture.

But I could see no commotion. No victim. All I saw was the guard, a girl, holding her sunglasses in one hand, the rescue tube in the other. She was treading water, looking at nothing in particular, not for a person in distress or at the bottom of the pool. And she was smiling.


Something was wrong with her. She wasn’t thinking straight. She wasn’t rescuing the victim. She had given up and she was just treading water and… smiling.

Some sort of instinct kicked in in me. My old lifeguarding instinct. My mommy instinct. My teacher instinct. My adult instinct. So much experience, so many instincts, all raring to go. I knew I could help. Plus, I had my goggles! I’d be able to see the entire bottom of the pool!

I pulled the goggles back down over my eyes. And then… then I hesitated.

Maybe I shouldn’t interfere. I didn’t work here. My training was decades old. I could, possibly, make the situation worse.

And then it hit me, why the guard wasn’t trying, and why she was smiling. Why she thought this whole thing was funny.

Her twenty seconds were up.

She had failed. She knew it. And there was nothing to do now but smile and handle it graciously while the crowd looked on.

When I figured it out, I smiled, too. Smiled that I was all raring to save someone.

It was almost a year later, just a few days ago actually, that I went to swim laps at the indoor pool. My daughter was working. Guarding. I watched her for a few minutes. Pacing the edge, scanning, guarding. Really guarding. She was no longer a rookie. She looked good. Impressive. Serious. Professional.

On my way out, in the lobby, I saw this sign explaining about the VAT (Vigilance Awareness Training) manikin. Oh, so that’s what VAT stands for, I thought. The sign was large and it explained why the VAT doll was used, but it was in a corner where, I think, most patrons probably don’t see it.

To me, people need to be told as they enter the pool, need to be made aware, somehow, that the baby doll manikin might be in use. To see someone toss a baby into the deep end or to watch as a guard either does or does not bring the tiny victim up, could result in a brief episode–as it did me–of manikin panickin’!



It Takes a Village

It was Amy’s idea to make the hats.

“I was at Wal-Mart getting poster board, mom, and I saw some plain white hats. I thought it’d be fun to get a bunch and write TEAM ADDY on them.”

Not only would it be fun to attend graduation in matching white caps, but the slogan—TEAM ADDY—was perfect.

So, using fabric markers and puffy paint, we made enough hats for Amy, me, a few friends, and the others that would be coming over from Denver—Addy’s dad, his girlfriend, and his mother.

photo 3
I wasn’t sure if the Denver group would sit with us at the ceremony, or with me, I should say, as I would encourage Amy to sit with them since she doesn’t see them as often. I couldn’t predict if they’d like the hat idea and agree to wear them. To be honest, I was surprised that Addy’s dad was taking the time off work and making the trip to attend her graduation at all. It’s not that he wasn’t proud of her, and supportive, it’s just that he’s never had any use for ceremonies.

It’s been more than six years now since the separation and almost five since the divorce became final. It was a contentious affair. In the middle of the process, the girls’ dad quit his job and moved across the state, taking a new woman/old high school girlfriend with him. And shortly after that he announced that he wanted the girls to come live with them.

I won’t get into the particulars, but the girls did live with their father for a few years. One wanted to–to give him a chance–more than the other, but they had to stick together. They’ve always stuck together. Their relationship is the heart and soul of TEAM ADDY.

Eventually, the girls made their way back to me. Their father was busy working most of the time; he always had been and that did not change once he took custody of the girls. It was his girlfriend who ended up caring for them.

Initially, I was angry. Hurt. Incredulous that the court said she would be the one to raise my daughters instead of me. But rather quickly that anger turned to gratitude and appreciation. For if she was not there, not in that household and not available all day, every day, as she was, then I’m not sure what would have become of my daughters.

She transitioned them into a new home, new schools, and through some tough teenage years. She didn’t parent exactly how I would, but she did parent. She parented my children.

It was the beginning of the teamwork. The village. On the first Mother’s Day that rolled around, I sent her a card, thanking her for all that she did for my girls, thanking her for being a good mother, explaining how grateful I was for the village.
She called me immediately upon receiving it and thanked me profusely. The team became stronger.

We became friends.

Not being their real mother, Addy didn’t feel that pressure from her to be like mom, to go through childhood and high school the way mom did it, the way mom would want you to do it. I credit her presence, and the lack of mine on a daily basis, for Addy discovering her true self—her free spirit; her hippie style; her creativity with music, writing, and art; her brash humor; the eschewal of the high school experience that I had in mind for her. The girl knows herself better than I have ever known myself. And she’s only 17.

The power of the village.


There were tough times in that household, as there are in most. There were several occasions when she was on the verge of leaving him. I prayed she would. Get out. Get a better life for yourself. She was a friend, a fellow woman. I cared about her. But I prayed harder that she would stay. Oh, please stay. Find the strength to stay. And she did. She stayed. Addy–in her honesty and boldness and love for her–told her to leave. Go to a happier place. She explained to Addy why she couldn’t leave; she loved them both and she did not think their dad could handle raising them on his own.

She stuck it out for the team.

I’ll never understand Addy’s father’s style of parenting, of loving. But I will say that he is a critical player on the team. He works hard, he earns good money, he pays his child support. He teaches different sorts of lessons. He does what needs to be done, in a business sense. He has been cordial and cooperative.

Eventually—slowly but eventually—he and I became friendly again, too.

The strength of the village.

And then there is Jim. My Jim. My Jim who is patient and understanding and embraces that I am first and foremost a mom. He loves my girls and has always been there for the three of us. Another pillar in the village.

I remember, five years ago, hoping that we would all get to the point where we could come together for graduations, weddings, births, all the important things that might come up in our daughters’ lives. I imagined us in the same room, being cordial, the anger long gone, the hurting all healed. I wondered if that could ever be a reality.

We are at that point now. And it feels good. It feels healthy.

Recently, Addy was diagnosed with depression. We’ve all been supportive and tried our best to learn more and understand better what she is going through. We’ve teamed up to figure out how to parent a teen with depression, as it is no easy task, perhaps harder even than parenting a teen without depression.

And I cannot leave out the extended family members—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—who are also on TEAM ADDY, as well as friends, teachers, coaches, bosses. The village extends beyond all understanding.

Though we split apart years ago and live in separate cities, we’re one village.

So the TEAM ADDY hats mean a lot to me. I know mine will be around for years to come.

Photo 1


Valley of Fire

Our 12-day Spring Break road trip was well-planned out well before we left town–our route, our stops, campground and hotel reservations, the hikes we’d do, and our return date. Of course, there were dozens of things we could have done along the way that fit into the theme of the trip (family bonding in the great outdoors), but most of them never even made the short list. Valley of Fire surely did not; I hadn’t even heard of the place.

Valley of Fire is a small state park in Nevada about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas along I-15. It was the one major activity that we added to our itinerary at the last minute, major meaning that we devoted almost an entire day to it and thus bumped a different hike from our plans and turned a leisurely sight-seeing drive along Scenic Highway 12 in Utah into a dead tired holy-heck-I-can’t-see-anything-because-it’s-snowing-and-blowing late night drive.

But it was worth it for sure.

Just two days earlier, I was in a hotel room on the Western Slope of the Sierra Nevada doing a little online research in search of a giant sequoia. I popped onto WordPress and found that someone I didn’t know–Daniel at National Parks [and More]–had commented on one of my posts that, if possible, we should try to incorporate Valley of Fire into our plans. A little more research and we decided to do it.

The beauty of the place struck me immediately upon passing through the entrance gate. So much so that I almost didn’t notice the ranger in a truck with flashing lights motioning for me to pull over. I explained to him that I had seen the 35 mph sign, that in fact I had set my cruise control to 35, but that it must not have stuck or it must have popped off when I came down that hill. The first part is true, but thinking back I realize that I must have pushed OFF instead of SET. I was going 48 mph, but only got a warning instead of a $308 ticket. It must have been because I at least attempted to go the speed limit.


I asked my daughters, “Do you think he’ll mind if I take a few photos while he writes the ticket?” We were already surrounded by beautiful red rock formations.



Flowers near the Visitors Center

After spending more time than expected at the Visitors Center–because of its really well-done historical and nature displays–and the gift shop, we made our way north to the White Domes hiking area. Not having adequate time to research all the hikes, I made one quick inquiry at the Visitors Center and White Domes was the hike that was recommended.

Of course, it was lovely. Most of the hike was through a slot canyon, but then it opened up and our eyes were treated to more of the stunning scenery in this park.



As with most of the hikes I do with my teenage daughters, we moved at a leisurely pace and took lots of photos.




Addy getting up close and personal with texture and color.



As I said, this park wasn’t on our agenda and we didn’t have nearly enough time to explore it. There are several more hikes that I want to do. As with any state or national park, it’s important to get off the main road and into the heart of the place.


I’ve seen a lot of red rock country and I know there are several shades that qualify as red. But what I saw in the Valley of Fire was some of the most brilliant I’ve ever laid eyes on. And the various textures of the rocks were unique as well. We were there mid-day and it was downright gorgeous; but, oh, I am so going back for an extended stay so I can experience it in the evening when they say the lower light reflects all around and makes the place look like it is on fire.


I think I’ve got the Valle of Fire reflection.






The Struggle is Real

“Oh my God, are you filing your nails?”

The stylish guy behind the counter at BC Surf & Sport looked up from his casual slouch. “First I bit them, now I’m smoothing them down.”

Not missing a beat, my teenage daughter continued. “So, is that, like, your personal nail file or do you all share it?” Two other young male employees, looking just as hip as the first, had sauntered over to join the conversation with this outgoing, plenty-hip-herself potential customer.

“Oh, no, it’s the shop file. We have to fight over who gets to use it.” All three of the guys chuckled.

“I hear ya,” said my daughter. “The struggle is real.”

The struggle is real? What an odd thing to say. Perhaps it was a trendy phrase among the young and cool, something I hadn’t yet heard my daughters use around the house.

The thing is, the struggle is real.

My teenager has had a rough couple of weeks. She’s a senior and will graduate in May. That is, if she can muster the will to get out of bed in the morning; if she can trick herself into believing that it’s worth it to go to class, to finish her assignments, complete the required service learning hours and supplementary reflection paper, to graduate because she has a future that’s worth living; if she can dispel the anxiety that obliterates her days when she’s forced to think about what’s coming next–a summer job, leaving for college, a lifetime of expectations to be capable, competent, optimistic, and excited about life.

For her, the struggle is real.


I try to understand. I try to hide my dismay and disappointment when I find her hunkered down in bed when she should have been up an hour ago for school, when I get yet another automated call from the school reporting her random absences, when she says she’ll take care of timely business later because she just can’t deal with things right now. I try to suppress my natural parenting instinct of taking away privileges or at least letting natural consequences play out – as would be effective with most teenagers – for some of the things she does and doesn’t do.

But what good is it to take away her car, her means of getting to school? Sure, she could ride the bus, and that would be the perfect consequence for most teens who have trouble getting to school on time when driving themselves, but for her, having to ride the bus, as a senior, would be another good reason to stay in bed. And the joy of driving, of being independent, is probably the main thing that’s getting her to leave the house these days. Grounding doesn’t make sense when what I really want to see happening is her going out more and interacting with the world and spending time with friends. And should I cut back on her already minimal weekly spending money when doing so might result in her being more anxious, less hopeful?

The struggle is real.

Luckily, my daughter makes fairly good choices within the confines of her disorder. Her depression has not resulted in any run-ins with the law. She is not failing her classes. Like she says, she’s got healthy ways of coping, her music, drawing, art. She always finds the time and plenty of humor and love for her sister. She is open about her depression and willing to explain what she’s going through for those of us who don’t get it, who can’t possibly imagine not embracing each new day and what the future has to offer. These past few weeks, as she’s mourned her childhood and confronts her future, she’s felt more anxious and out of control than ever.

I’m always fighting myself.

I don’t feel like I’m on my own team.

I have my coping mechanisms in place – playing guitar, drawing, writing, walking – and I have plenty of time to do those things now, but what about when I go to college? I’ll be so much busier. How will I find the time to calm myself down? I’m already freaking out about it.

I know I miss some classes, but you have to understand that, for me, going to most of them is a huge accomplishment being that I can barely get out of bed.

Every time I’m happy, I feel like I’m just faking it. I know who I really am, that the bad feelings are going to come back.

I feel like you deserve a better daughter. You should have a smart daughter, someone who gets really good grades.

I’m so afraid this is hereditary and I’m going to give it to my kids. I don’t want them to suffer. I’m keeping a journal so that when they become teens I can look back on my writing and hopefully remember and be able to help them get through it.

I listen. I see her tears. I feel the bubble wrap in which she’s encased herself, that protective layer that keeps her safe, but simultaneously keeps me from her. I’ve helped her get a diagnosis, medication, counseling. And yet I cannot give her what it is I truly want to – optimism.

She’s going to have to discover that on her own. And find a way to let optimism rule.

And I cannot give myself the one thing that would help me to understand her better, that would allow me to more thoroughly accept and support her. I cannot give myself depression. And for this, I sometimes feel guilty.

The struggle is real.

For both of us, and for so many more out there, it’s real.


The Swing

Her little girl

In the swing

Curious, energetic, bright

She pushes her

Learn, move, create

Harder, faster, higher

And the girl smiles.

Her daughter

In the swing

Inquisitive, assiduous, gifted

She teaches her to pump

Push, produce, live,

Harder, faster, higher

And the girl does.

Her teenager

In the swing

Introspective, lackadaisical, artsy

She watches her change paths

Grow, change, become herself

Twisting, slowing, nearly stopping

And the girl cries.

This young woman

In the swing

Discovering who she is

She watches as she

Looks up, beholds the sky

And resolves to pump again.


Lead Yourself Not Into Homelessness

My daughter, the senior, spent the snow day doing homework. It’s an activity I rarely see her engaged in. In fact, seeing her on the couch, laptop on lap, books and papers spread about her… it almost threw me for a loop.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to pass my classes, one essay at a time.”

“Oh. Awesome. I’m proud of you.”

“Yeah, and mama, do you want to help me with some extra credit?”

“Sure. Love to.”

“Okay, read this and do it.” She handed me a letter on goldenrod.

Dear Precious Parents of AP Literature Students,

As you doubtless realize from all the weeping and wailing about the house, we are reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Hmmm, I haven’t heard any weeping and wailing. At least not about Shakespeare. I wondered if my daughter was aware that her class was reading Hamlet.Ms Childs

As the mother of three former seniors, I know how desperately you want your senior to graduate and get out into that wide world out there.

God, I love this woman, I thought. She’s reading my mind! My daughter liked her, too. She even made a ceramic whistle of her persona in art class.

So, here’s the deal. In Act I, scene iii, Polonius provides advice to his son Laertes as Laertes is about to leave for France. Here, there was a paragraph of advice in Shakespearean, a paragraph that I started reading, happily, thinking that now that I was 47, I might get Shakespeare, I might like it. After a few sentences, I was withering, no, cringing. I finished reading it, then summarized to myself: okay, so that was some advice. Yeah. Moving on.

Emulate Polonius by giving your student the benefit of your parental wisdom in one of the approved forms below.

There were several options, the most appealing, to me, being to email the advice I have for my daughter to this teacher, to let her know that my daughter I did the assignment.

I am providing you a platform to dispense advice about life, college, reality, the wide world out there, or whatever you see fit. The burden of this assignment rests upon the shoulders of your offspring who should make an appointment to interview you, asking advice about a major decision.

Yes! This will force her to listen to me. I believed this assignment was God’s answer to my prayers of the last several months. Prayers about that fine line, the fine line of holding your child’s hand and making sure everything gets completed, correctly, and turned in, and just leaving it all up to her. Though I am concerned about whether she’s going to get all of her credits, whether she’s going to complete her service learning hours, and that she is not working up to her potential, I concluded, after much praying, that I must go with the latter. I must leave her to her own devices and let her learn from her mistakes, her struggles, and her many successes as well.

And that is where we’re at. Where we’ve been for the past six weeks. And now there are only three weeks left in this semester.

The advice may be as simple or as elaborate as you choose. You may provide advice from personal experience, family precedents, or literature. By doing so, you may earn up to 50 test points for your student in AP Lit.

This sounded fun, so I got on it right away, and this is what I came up with.

My daughter who art in your senior year,

Hallowed be my advice.

Your future comes,

Your childhood be done,

On Earth as in my mind.

Give us today your best effort.

Forgive me my high expectations

As I forgive you your mediocrity these past few years.

Lead yourself not into homelessness

But deliver yourself into prosperity.

For your grades,

Your graduation and your future are yours

Now and forever.


A mom

I don’t know why I went with The Lord’s Prayer format. Maybe because God’s been involved with this whole thing, because the assignment is a gift from him. I hope no one finds it offensive. My daughter listened to it and laughed. And, I pray, she’ll do something with it.

I’ll keep you posted on that graduation thing…

7:11 p.m. on 12/3/13

This evening between 6:32 p.m.and 8:19 p.m. I was catching up with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in several weeks. We talked nonstop about relationships–with men, kids, friends, extended family–and about budgets–the choices we make and living within our means.

Prior to meeting up with her I was shopping with my youngest teenager. She will be participating in the next step of the Rotary Youth Exchange application process, which is a weekend-long event this coming weekend. Nice clothes are required, something other than jeans, baggy sweaters, and Vans. She will be judged (literally) from the moment she walks into the hotel on Friday evening until she leaves on Sunday afternoon. So we were shopping for dress pants, skirts, blouses, sweaters or blazers, appropriate shoes, tights, and other accessories.

As I went in to meet my friend, I got a text from Jim. Didja get Amers all decked out for this weekend? I quickly texted him back. Yes! A couple hundred dollars and two hours later.

As I visited with my friend, I checked my phone a few times, keeping an eye on the time, and making sure that my daughters didn’t need me for anything. My friend reads my blog and she knew that 7:11 was the next Moment in Time. “I wonder what we’ll be talking about at 7:11?” she asked.  “I better make sure it’s nothing too personal!”

“Oh, don’t worry. What we’re talking about won’t necessarily correlate with what I end up writing. I won’t know the significance of the moment until I sit down and write about it.”

At one point, when I looked at my phone, it was 6:51 and the screen on my phone was blank–no new texts or Facebook messages. The next 7.11time I checked, it was 7:21. 7:11 had come and gone. It would be easy enough to recall what we’d been discussing at 7:11. But when I looked at my phone that second time, at 7:21, there was a text on the screen, from Jim, a continuation of the conversation we’d been having about the shopping. I realized the text probably came in around 7:11.

Sweet! I’ve heard that raising children is expensive. I’m glad that you are making that experience PRICELESS.

(Yes, he’s a gem.)

My friend had been talking about whether she could realistically afford an upcoming trip and Jim had been commenting about the cost of raising children.

As I write this, I realize that at 7:11 p.m. on 12/3/13 I, myself, was not particularly concerned about money. I don’t want to imply that I don’t have a monthly budget to stick to (I do) or that I don’t find the cost of children overwhelming (I do). It’s just that at that moment on that day, my money issues were not on my mind. And though a budget is something I tend to daily, I do not have to worry, daily, about where the next meal is coming from or whether I can put gas in the car.

And I’ll tell you why. It’s because my ex-husband works hard and pays a respectable amount of child support. He pays it unfailingly every month and I rely on it to provide my daughters with more than the basic shelter, food, and clothing. My daughter would not have gotten the three dressy outfits she needed if it weren’t for child support. Heck, she wouldn’t even be applying to be a foreign exchange student. Nor would she be on the swim team or have taken the driver’s education course or have a smart phone with a data plan. And my other daughter? Probably no choir. No phone. No car. No weekend trip to look at colleges. And, a really scary thought–probably no college if it weren’t for her father who’s been tucking away money for her education.

Yes, our lives, especially theirs, would be quite a bit different if it weren’t for the monetary contributions made by their father.

I have a teaching career and, with 23 years experience and two advanced degrees, make a decent salary. But it would not be enough to raise the girls on, if that’s all we had.

Well, I shouldn’t say that. There are parents out there raising their kids on much less. My heart goes out to them. I know they have to make tough choices every day.

Jim implied in his text that I was ensuring that my daughters’ upbringing was priceless, that they have some opportunities to experience some things that many other kids do not. He’s right. I am. They do.

But it’s not me who’s “making that experience PRICELESS” in the literal sense. It’s their father.

Sure, I do the legwork and the running around and the organizing. I contribute the time, the energy, the love. But it’s because of him that a lot of this stuff can happen financially.

At 7:11 p.m. on 12/3/13, or around then, a kind and thoughtful text was sent to me,  a text that got me thinking about something. I am grateful, so, so grateful for the support that my girls receive from their father. He may not do things as I would, he may not be as involved in their lives as I’d like him to be, but he does support his daughters in the way that works best for him.

So this moment, 7:11 on 12/3/13, is dedicated to my friend and daughters and significant other and a father. And, of course, to PRICELESS moments.


A Moment in Time is a shared blogging experience, where writers document and share their stories from the same moment on the same day. The day and time for the next A Moment in Time is posted by Randee every few days in such a way that you’ll have a heads up on the exact moment to which you need to attend and focus on and, if it’s significant in some way, write about and add to the list.

To read others’ moments in time:

What Skills Does Your College Student Need?

“How to do their own laundry!” calls out a woman, a mom, as she’s raising her hand, before she’s even called on.

The question is, “What skills does your college student need?”

The woman asking is from the Admissions Office at CSU (Colorado State  University). Or was it the Dean’s Office? She’s had several roles at CSU, including the two aforementioned ones, as well as a professor and also a mother of a senior in college and a senior in high school.

It’s Campus Visitation Day at CSU and this woman is addressing about a hundred of us in a breakout session that is just for parents.

“Okay, besides laundry, what else?”

“Time management!” yells a father in the group.


“Asking for help when they need it.”

“Yes, self-advocacy,” clarifies the Admissions/Dean’s Office/past professor/mom.

“Safety,” I add to the list.

All of this in thirty seconds and I’m starting to have physiological reactions. You know, the type that would probably make me fail a polygraph test.


All Dressed Up, Nowhere to Go

Me? Dress up for Halloween?

It takes a lot of creative energy, time, and money to put together a costume, and most of what was available for that for the last 10-15 years went into figuring out what my children were going to wear. So, yeah, I’m sort of in the habit to not dress up for Halloween.

Wait, wait; that’s not entirely true. Being a teacher and that I have students who start asking in September what I’m going to be, I do have a couple of easy costumes to choose from to wear on Halloween day. My favorite, of late, is what I dubbed an “ankle down” costume. It works for me because it requires no special make-up, no wig, and no special clothing. And, most important, it’s comfortable.

What is it, you ask? A pair of bumblebee slippers. When my students ask what I am, I answer with, “Two bees,” and their little faces morph from confusion to wonder to slight disappointment all within a matter of seconds.

Last year, about this time, I heard about the Zombie Prom happening at one of our trendy downtown theaters and I mentioned it to my daughter, thinking she and her friends might want to go. Much to my (initial) dismay, she suggested that I attend with them. I panicked. Wouldn’t that require hair, make-up, clothing? Interestingly, that stressed me out more than the thought of dancing and being stuck in a loud, crowded place with a bunch of young, wild, costumed strangers. She assured me that a zombie was, like, the easiest costume in the world.


Random Kitchen Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon

Addy:  Mom, do we have any more laundry detergent?

Mom:  No, but it’s on the list.

Addy’s Friend:  Oh, that’s okay, I brought my own.

Addy:  Hey, you want to make brownies? We have a mix.

Friend:  Yah!

Addy:  K, let’s mix everything except the oil. Then, we can some batter before we bake them and it won’t be so gross.

Addy:  Mmmm, want some batter, Amy?

Amy:  Yah, I’ll take a bite.

Friend:  I’ll have some more.

Addy:  (slurping off the spoon) Mmm, I can’t stop eating this.

Addy:  Okay, let’s put the oil in now and bake these things.

Amy:  Do we have any cream of tartar?

Mom:  I think so.

Amy:  Can the neighbor borrow it? She’s making Chemical Apple Pie.

Mom:  She’s making what?

Amy:  It’s some kind of fake apple pie. It doesn’t have apples in it.

Mom:  Oh. Weird. Why?

Amy:  I don’t know. What is cream of tartar? Where is it?

Mom:  It’s in the spice cupboard, a little one, with a red lid. I don’t really know what it is, to be honest.

Addy:  You should let us try this with you, Mom. It’s so fun. You laugh really hard, in a weird rhythm.

Mom:  No, it’ll make me cry.

Addy:  It’s okay. We cried, too.

Mom:  No, really, you know me. I’ll, like, cry-cry if you make me laugh too hard.

Addy:  Come on , Mom! You gotta try stuff. Your life is just passing you by.

Mom:  Okay, but I’m scared.

Addy:  Amy, you do it to her. I’m going to videotape.

Mom:  No! I’m not doing it. We do not need a videotape of this.

Addy:  I’ll just videotape the sound then.

Mom:  No, I don’t trust you.

Addy:  Okay, fine. I’ll put my phone out here.

Amy:  K, mom, lay down. Cross your arms over your chest, like this. Right before I push on you, take a deep breath.

Addy, Amy, Friend:  (laughing) You have to laugh, Mom! Don’t hold your breath!

Amy:  K, here we go again.

Mom: Aaarrroooooooophhhhh!

Addy, Amy, Friend:  (laughing) What was that?

Mom:  (crying) Let me up! Let me up! Let me out of here!

Addy:  What, mom? You’re cooking dinner?

Mom:  Well, sort of. I need to use this Swiss chard that someone gave me. It’s bitter and needs to be cooked a little. So, I’m making a pasta dish with it. Want some?

Addy:  No, mom, you know I don’t eat pasta.

Addy:  Hey, T, do you want some real food? I’ll make you something.

Friend:  Yes, please.

Mom:  I wish you would have told me T was coming over and doing her laundry and staying a while. If I’d have known, I would have planned something good for dinner.

Addy:  Really? Well, I’ll just cook her something. What do we have?

Mom:  How about quesadillas? We have tortillas, cheese, black beans, salsa, plenty of veggies if you want to add some.

Addy:  Okay. Do we have the good tortillas?

Mom:  Yes. But wait. Not now. Wait until I’m done cooking.

Friend:  Oooo! What is that? It smells good.

Mom:  Well, I sautéed Swiss chard and onion and garlic and mixed it together with angel hair pasta. I also added a little avocado, lime, and some parmesan cheese. Want some?

Friend:  Yes! That looks so good.

Addy:  Okay, fine. I’ll try it, too.

Friend:  This is good! The avocado in there adds a lot.

Addy:  Do you want a quesadilla, too? Have you had these kind of tortillas? The raw ones?

Friend:  (looking at the tortilla package) Nope. Never.

Addy:  (eating a raw quesadilla) Here. Try one. They’re so good.

Friend:  (looking skeptical) What do they taste like?

Addy:  Nothing. Wait. Carbs. They taste like carbs.

Addy:  Do you want to make some music, T?

Friend:  No, but I’ll listen to you sing.

Addy:  Here, I’ll teach you the song I just learned this weekend.

Friend:  Wait! Let me make sure my emotions are in check before you start singing.

Addy:  (playing the guitar) The sky looks pissed, The wind talks back, My bones are shifting in my skin, And you my love are gone… (“The Chain” by Ingrid Michaelson).

Amy:  Uh! Are you crying, T?

Mom:  She should be! Addy, your voice is perfect for that song.

Addy:  Aw, thanks, Mom.  Come on, T, you should sing or play the piano.

Amy:  The neighbor’s bringing over a slice of the pie. Will you taste it with me?

Mom:  Let’s google it while we’re waiting. See what it’s about.

Mom:  Gross, it really is called Chemical Apple Pie. Who would call it that?  Oh, here’s an explanation:  This is a recipe for apple pie made without apples. It has all the characteristics of an apple pie with apples. If you didn’t know better, you’d think that there really were apples in it. This is an old chemistry lab experiment to teach the limits of human senses.  (John Pile on

Amy: (pie in hand) It looks pretty good, Mom.

Mom:  Oh, I see they put ice cream with it. That should help.”

Amy:  Mmm, it’s good.

Mom:  Mmm, yes it is. It wouldn’t be as good without the ice cream.

Amy:  I actually like the pie part better.

Mom:  Okay, then give me another bite with a lot of ice cream.

Amy:  No, I want the rest. (Turns to run out of the room, with the pie, inadvertently leaves her phone there)

Mom: (spanking Amy as she runs while simultaneously snatching up the phone) Ha! You’ll have to trade me a bite for your phone.

Amy:  You’re such a brat! (Gives mom another bite)

Mom:  You leaving?

Friend:  Yes, thank you so much for having me over. I have to go though. I’m pooped.

Mom:  Do you have your laundry?

Friend:  Oh, my gosh! I almost forgot about that!

Addy:  Did we ever put it in the dryer?

Friend:  Yes. I did.

Addy:  That’s good. Since that’s the reason you had to do it here anyway—your dryer’s broken. Come on, let’s go get it.

Mom:  Bye, T.

Addy:  Mom, does this outfit look good for tomorrow?

Mom:  Yah, that’s cute. What do you have going on?

Addy:  You can’t just say it’s cute. It has to be really cute or not.

Mom:  Oh, well… It’s okay. Are you trying to impress someone?

Addy:  No, I’m just trying to outdo myself.

“Outdo myself.” There’s a phrase. Something to think about. In what aspects of my life do I try to outdo myself? How about you?

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