Time Well Spent

I’ve been hanging with #5 today. He’s taller every time I see him, which right now is only every Sunday. He’s fourteen. A freshman. Still chatty. He’ll hug me again now, but only sideways and only as long as I don’t make eye contact with him.

Now, I don’t know if this is a boys vs girls thing, or a unique characteristic to #5, but holy cow he’s a space cadet right now. At least, I hope it’s just right now. I hope that it’s a phase and not the permanent state of things. It’s truly remarkable, the private world he lives in.

Yesterday he had a morning scouting event. He knew he’d be getting home after the rest of us had left for work, and before Kelsey* came. Yet, he neglected to bring his house key.

He called me when he was locked out to see when I’d be back.

We have a shared online family calendar. Each family member’s activities are indicated by their own colored dot (the dogs have a dot too, as does Kelsey. There are a lot of dots). I actually keep it updated and do nifty things like send reminders to everyone for events such as trash day– reminders which are promptly ignored. #5 can view, with two swipes on his phone, where everyone is right now. Besides this completely functional calendar, there is the fact that I’ve been in production ALL YEAR. If it’s not Sunday, and it’s not between the hours of 12:30am and 6am, I’m either at work or in transit.

Also? When I’m not in production, at 2pm on any given Saturday, I’m doing a show. That’s been my schedule for roughly the past 20 years. I can see how he might not have that down yet.




This morning, I had a couple songs from Daydream Nation stuck in my head. Since I had to work at my computer in the dining room, I set up a Sonic Youth station on Pandora. I knew it wouldn’t go well for long, but I got excited when “Teenage Riot” was the first song played. We sat at the table, me doing the budget and #5 doing homework while it cycled through Pixies and Nirvana and then started going south. Finally, he spoke up.

#5: So, what genre is this exactly? Because it sounds like pain and suffering. This music is the end of the movie where people are dying and everyone is losing things.



#5 operates under the delusion that it is possible to half-ass the chore of taking the dogs out. He believes he can take one dog out and not the other, or else not give them the time required while outside to complete all the items on their to-do list.

But the Puggles would make awful drummers. Their timing is terrible.

If you take only one dog out, the other one runs to the window exactly 45 seconds after you’ve shut the door. When you take the second one out after bringing in the first, the first one watches from the window and then when you return, attempts to convince you that they weren’t finished and need to go back out. If that dog happens to be Casey, it’s true. She needs approximately six times as long as Jack to figure things out when she’s outside. This one-in-one-out routine can go on all day.

But every single time one dog is asking to go out, #5 takes only that dog.

This morning, #5 took Jack outside. Like clockwork, Casey ran to the window and stared out. I figured I’d stop it all mid-cycle and harnessed her up. I went outside with her, told #5 she was feeling left out and handed him Casey’s leash.

Passed him the leash with the dog attached to it.

Which he reached out and took from me.

I’d scarcely sat back down when he came back in with them.

Me: Thanks, bud. Did Casey go?

#5: What?

Me: Did Casey go? You didn’t have her out there very long.

#5: I didn’t take Casey out.

There followed a back and forth, with me recounting to him the story I just told here. Afterwards, he just stared at me, totally not believing me.

#5: How is it even possible that you handed me Casey’s leash and I didn’t even see her?

Me: That is an excellent question. Welcome to my world.

September 2006


*Kelsey is our main Adult In Charge. That’ll be another post sometime.



If You Weren’t Sick Before…

Earlier this spring, both #4 and #5 went home sick from school on the same day. This type of thing happens only when CC is out of town, and then most often on a Wednesday, my longest work day (for the record, snow days work like this too).

I called my sub in to cover me and made it to the middle school in record time. We got home with no hurling, and when they felt up for it, I heated up some chicken soup, pulled out the saltines and ginger ale and joined them at the table.

The nurse had told me more than 25% of the kids were out sick with the bug that was going around.

Me: I like your nurse at the middle school.

#4: Same.

#5: Same.

Me: Whatever happened to “me too”?

[They stare at me blankly.]

#5: The middle school nurse is way nicer than the one at the elementary school.

Me: Yeah, that one scared me. She yelled at me.

#4: Wasn’t that because of me?

Me: Pretty much. You showed me this teeny-tiny spot on the top of your knee where you had poison ivy and I gave you Caladryl, but you neglected to mention that the back of your legs were completely covered with it and festering. Then you went to the nurse.

#4: Oh yeah, I remember that. I though they were bug bites.

Me: Yeah, well they weren’t. She screamed at me when she called. I kept expecting DYFS to show up on our doorstep for like a month.

#5: What’s festering?

Me: Festering is gross, that’s what.

#4: I remember I got poison ivy on my eye one time.

Me: When I was a kid, I got it on my whole face and my eyes swelled shut. It was awful. Though I wasn’t as bad off as my friends. They went to the bathroom in the woods and used poison ivy leaves to wipe.

[They look, horrified, in my direction.]

Me: Yes, I actually knew people that happened to.

[They look, horrified, at each other.]

Me: They got poison ivy really bad. In their … ah… nether regions.

[They both put their spoons down and scoot away from the table]

#5: Julie? Don’t ever say that again, okay?

Me: Which part?

#4: ANY OF IT!!!


With my innate nurturing skills (feed a cold; starve a fever; gross out a bug) both #4 and #5 made full recoveries. #5 and I played an epic game of Monopoly in which we bent the rules and he beat me by ending up with every single piece of property. It was an entirely different win than the one the week before where we bent the rules and he beat me by ending up with every single dollar, and I had to then explain that we couldn’t just “make” new money because that’s how economies collapse.

Meanwhile, I have a couple posts up on Family Circle’s Momster blog.

When you’re a stepmom of teenagers, you have to expand your definition of parenting wins: Treasured Moments

Attempts to teach a reluctant worker the value of a job well done: Hey Kids, Guess What? Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees!


So, ah… where’s the worst place you ever got poison ivy?


Where This Week Went. With Bonus Profanity.

It went in a cold snap.

One with lots of wind that made a rare opportunity to see a home track meet unfortunately very short.

To an afternoon of cleaning out my closet, of trying on every item of clothing I own and deciding:

I’m fucking done being neurotic about my body.

Life is too short, and forty is too awesome, for neurotic. Four bags of  donated clothes later, somehow I feel like I have a new wardrobe. Less truly is more, sometimes.

The week passed with a meeting of my writers’ group, followed by a much-needed, greatly enjoyed lunch with the ever-fabulous Christine from Quasi Agitato. It passed in a sushi dinner with one old friend, and two new ones.

The week went to an ivory evening gown, which I bought four years ago at Nordstrom’s Rack in Chicago for only thirty-five dollars because it was pre-altered and had a heel hole in the train which my tailor sewed up for me so you can’t even tell.

I wore it to CC’s opening night, even though it doesn’t hide my stomach.

My only embellishments were red lipstick and my handsome, handsome husband.  Away from me, someone told him I looked like a badass angel goddess.

That pretty much made my whole life.

This is a picture of me taking a picture of myself in my mirror. Just under my left elbow is my dress, folded over the back of the chair. We did not get a picture of ourselves at the shindig, partly because that useless little purse you carry with an evening gown doesn’t hold your lipstick, phone, car keys AND a camera. Hell, it won’t even hold a camera by itself. Or an epi-pen, I’m told. I considered putting the dress back on just for a picture here, but ultimately decided I was too lazy. Trust me though, we looked fabulous. Also, I am too lazy to figure out how to use the timer on the camera so that I don’t have to look like a douche holding the damn camera in the mirror. Hmm. . . this picture is a remarkably helpful illustration. Of nothing.

The week passed in six commutes, eight shows, eight onstage hangings and crucifixions. Eight times of laughing to myself out loud at the end of the night and saying, “Holy shit these guys are on fire!” because our band is that damn fantastic. It passed with one Drama Desk Best Sound nomination, followed by the crappiest show I’ve mixed here.


These things happen.

The week passed in a couple of yoga classes and some miles on the treadmill and an awful lot of staring myself down in the mirror saying yes I can when I really wanted to just stop.

And eat a cookie. Or ninety.

The week went to this thing in my refrigerator:

I can’t decide if I want someone to tell me what it is or not.

The week passed with Metallica, Sixx A.M. and My Chemical Romance. It was spent with my Uncle Tupelo station on Pandora.

It went to parenting that was neither funny nor satisfying- the ugly, unsettling kind that leaves you second guessing yourself while simultaneously knowing that, given the chance for a do-over, you would make the same decisions. You would still be left feeling sad and anxious and  nauseous.

It passed with Jenny Lawson’s stupidly excellent book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. She’s so awesome it pisses me off. I love her. I almost want to be her when I grow up except then it wouldn’t be as much fun to read her stuff. Which is the exact same reason why I don’t want to be a yoga teacher. Sort of. Also, I think I’m older than her, which would make being her when I grow up even more difficult.

The week went to lots of dog hair and stinky puppy feet, to puggle butts trotting through the cemetery as they sniffed about the freshly dead, of which there were many.

It went to a couple of fantastic mornings on my deck, listing things for which I am grateful. Like not being a reason that the cemetery is busy.

It went to Peanut Butter Puffins and skim milk. Skim, because it makes the best gooey-peanut butter milk at the end of the bowl. Trust me.

The week passed in many games of Scramble, with my sister and also my boss- whom, I am now certain, is cheating and has a ringer sitting in for him. Pretending. But still not winning.

It passed in saying goodbye to my two men as they went on a Scouting trip for the weekend.

It ends with not enough sleep in a bed that is far too empty, even with a puggle or two.

I hear myself say, “Where’d the week go?” but I know exactly where this week went.