Tag Archives: Mom on the Rocks

Oh Dear!

June 26, 2015 by

It’s summertime and I’m taking full advantage of the fact that my kids are preteens and sleeping in. Camp Mom is pretty laid back and the kids seem to appreciate it. Yesterday, I filled up 50 water balloons, declared my contribution to their summer fun, and went inside to read my book.

Max asks if we can go swimming. I tell him that I just need to finish one more thought and then we we’ll go. Two hours later, I finish the thought. Once we get to the pool, I see a bunch of familiar moms that I haven’t seen in a while.

I wave to the fellow gym moms. There was a half-hearted,  “Do I know you?” kind of reciprocation wave. That’s when I get a glimpse of myself in the window reflection. It’s not that I feel like I should get all dolled up to go to the pool, it’s that I look that awful.

My hair is a wirey mess. I have no make-up on and my current summer wardrobe is whatever I grab out of my laundry basket as I’m putting away the clean clothes, which happens to be full-length faded gym sweats in the middle of summer, a t-shirt, and my flip-flops from last year.

It’s evident that to these very put-together moms, I look a little bit homeless. And what’s the point in showering and washing my hair anyway if I’m going swimming? In short, think of that famous Nick Nolte mug shot from several years ago.

It hasn’t occurred to me until just now that I look like a mom begging for help.

I smile with pride because I’m living a dream: I’m a writer and mom. This is apparently what it looks like. I don’t have it all together, but I do indeed have it all. I mentally “high five” myself and play frisbee with the kids for a while.

When we leave the pool, I wave to the now-concerned moms. I’ve always been a low-maintenance kind of a gal, but right now I realize I’m a no-maintenance gal. I resolve to maybe give a slight bit of effort to my summer look. Camp Mommy takes on a new meaning.

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“The Talk”

October 23, 2014 by

Last year’s battle of Halloween was the kids’ standoff to replace their trick-or-treat buckets for pillow cases. Because, “Mom, you can hold way more candy in a pillow case!”

I knew this meant an equal quest for cavities and independence. I couldn’t even convince them to bring their holiday-specific, over-priced buckets back and dump them into a pillowcase, and then go back out. They wanted to go out for one candy run. The catch—they’re not coming back until the pillowcase is full.

I’m trying to remember how it is that there is a designated day of the year when all us parents lose our minds, dress up our kids (sometimes in drag), and then send them out in the dark to go knock on strangers’ doors for candy.

And yet, I send them on their merry way to collect as much candy as they can possibly fit in the pillowcase. They don’t believe me at how heavy that can get and when they’re that far away. It’ll be blocks away, and I won’t hear it, but in the dark of the night, with their burning biceps and candy weighing them down—they’ll whisper, “Mom was right.”

We’ve reached a turning point of Halloween. My kids are 11 now. And although you may think that’s still young enough to trick-or-treat, the other element is they stand taller than most adults. We can’t find age appropriate costumes in their size either. But mostly, if their quest for candy is their big desire, then it’s just time to let them pass on the torch to the 5-year-olds they may inadvertently knock over as they run from door to door.

So, we have The Talk. Consider it the Geneva Negotiations of Halloween 2014. It’s time to retire from trick-or-treating. In return for my demands, my precious tweens have made their own: take the money I spend on their costumes and buy them all of their favorite candy. I tack on a few toothbrushes and floss. With a few nods and pinky promises, we agree. As we all grieve a rite of passage for a kid—trick-or-treating, we bid farewell.

Finding the Love

February 10, 2014 by

The other day, I did the splits when stepping on my son’s sweatshirt. It should probably be noted that I’ve never done the splits before, so I might have mentioned in a slightly unloving way that he needed to pick his stuff up. Then we had a friend over for dinner, and my sweet, gorgeous daughter reached over my friend and grabbed the drumstick off the chicken and put it on her plate. I was horrified.

I’m really tired of lecturing them though. So I’m going to approach it differently. Maybe their poor housekeeping and manners is an extension of love. I give to you five odd ways that kids express their love for you:

  1. The stall tactics at bedtime. Max and Lucy zone out and move extra slow at the mention of bedtime. They linger in the hallways staring at the walls or have a sudden need to pet the dog. Perhaps they’ve just realized (every night) that the day is over, and they spent a lot of it playing video games or playing with their friends. It’s their way of saying, “But wait, I wanted to hang out with you—I just had 47 other things on my to-do list.” They don’t want their day with you to end. It’s kind of sweet, really. I’m going to try to remember that tonight at bedtime.
  2. “Tuck me in.” This one went on for a long time at our house. To the point where us jerks-for-parents would say things like, “I already tucked you in—go to sleep!” Maybe that’s what’s comforting to them—to see your face right before drifting off to dreamland. Whatever the case, one day they’ll stop asking. And it’ll hurt way more than it inconvenienced you when they were asking to tuck them in.
  3. Leaving shoes, socks, and sweatshirts on the floor. How do they just walk out of their shoes mid-stride like that? Maybe they’re doing it because they feel so secure and comfortable in the home you’ve created. Okay, this one is a stretch, and my kids should find a way to just directly express their love for me—or someone is going to get hurt with this expression of love.
  4. Grabbing at food like wild savages before you pray or say “go!” If you’re like me, there’s not enough food in the house that could qualify as being enough…ever. You made the meal for them with love. Consider them eating it with such vigor as the reciprocation of love.
  5. They ask for tiger time or tickle time. Our kids both loathe being tickled. But they see the joy it brings us to all interact in some chaotic dog pile/giggly torture. Tiger time is when our kids ride around on our backs, and we crawl around on all fours. I’m not sure why they picked, of all four-legged creatures, tigers. But who cares. Sadly, the kids are too big to do tiger time any more. But it’s the precision and inside family name when the kids’ request it that shows their love.

So there are five very indirect, slightly far-fetched ways that kids say they love us. I hope this month when we’re celebrating one day of love, we can stop and see the every day love. It’s gotta be in there somewhere.

Resolving New Year’s Resolutions

December 30, 2013 by
Photography by Katie Anderson

I don’t go out on New Year’s. I’m a mom, so the minivan and I prefer to stay home. About halfway through the Dick Clark New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special, I get nostalgic and start thinking of what New Year’s resolution I should come up with.

Whether you set New Year’s resolutions or you don’t, let’s be real, either way—you never keep them. I’ve never seen a weight loss success story where the thin bombshell proclaims, after asked how she did it, “It was my New Year’s resolution!” Not gonna happen. Ever.

By February, I’ve not only failed at the resolution, I’ve forgotten what it was all together. When someone asks me what my resolution is, I will respond with: “I’ll tell you my resolution if you can tell me what yours was last year.” It’s a time-honored tradition—no one can even remember.

For the record, let’s review why no one can remember a resolution: You were out partying when you told all your drunk friends what your resolution was. Your friends can’t hold you accountable if they can’t remember where their phones or keys are.

A few years ago, I set out to eat clean for an entire year. I was determined. I’m proud to announce that I lasted all the way through April. Think about it. That’s like the Heisman Trophy of New Year’s resolutions.

When my kids asked me what a New Year’s resolution was, it changed things. Do I want to teach my kids to set unattainable goals? Do I teach them to wait until midnight on New Year’s Eve to set a goal? Do I teach them to come up with something they hate about themselves so they can change it? As always, my kids’ curiosity changed my perspective on the entire purpose of a New Year’s resolution. How do I pass down this tradition to my kids and make it a positive experience?

Last year, I decided my New Year’s resolution would be to try something new each month. It could be anything. So one month I wore eye shadow every day. The next month I drove a different way to work for a week. Another month I went for a week without makeup. Each new thing may seem slight and not as noble as you think. But I had fun with it and learned something fun about myself each time. By May, I forgot to proclaim my monthly something new to try. Then again, I still find myself trying new things. The resolution stuck as a practice, hopefully throughout my life and not just for a year.

And so, at our house, I think we’ll come up with something fun and positive for our New Year’s resolutions. It’s the less grandiose resolutions that stick better and make a bigger difference, after all. My kids bring insight to the success of a New Year’s resolution.

 

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Leg Lamps and Wooden Trees

December 19, 2013 by

This year, I decided to ask my kids what their favorite holiday traditions were. I was shocked when neither of them said “presents.”

Max: “Movies and our countdown calendar.”

Lucy: “I like our wooden Christmas tree.”

So, there it is. Those are some of our favorite holiday traditions. I was surprised my kids liked the wooden Christmas tree that was passed down to me from my aunt. I was using it as an extra the first year we had it. By the next year, the kids were asking if we could ditch the traditional fake tree and just use the wooden one. So now, we adorn a wooden tree. The kids take pride in it, and I don’t get poked by needles setting it up. We all win.

Each year, I also set up what I like to refer to as the secular countdown calendar. They get a little white bag for each day of December, counting down until Christmas morning. Each bag is filled with two Hershey’s Kisses and either a note, activity to do that day, or a little gift. Some of our countdown calendar ideas are: holiday socks, ornaments, a holiday movie, and at least two community service activities.

Another favorite in our house is watching holiday movies. A Christmas Story is not just a 24-hour Christmas Eve favorite. We watch it year-round over here. I’m the proud owner of two leg lamps (one full size that indeed does pose a glow of amber in our front window, and a mini-size one that I keep for comfort in my office year-round). And thanks to losing a bet with my sister, I also own a bunny suit.

Our celebration of actual Christmas in our faith is a beautiful and quiet one at church. All the secular stuff we choose to participate in, well, that’s fun, too. My husband and I try to help the kids understand the difference between “Christmas” traditions and “holiday” traditions. And then we embrace it all and run with it.

No matter what, don’t beat yourself up so much on whether or not you’re exploiting your faith. Chances are, the presents, the overeating, the leg lamp, well…it all brings family and friends closer together. And no matter which holiday you’re celebrating, community and family are part of your faith—I guarantee it.

Max hustles out the Christmas storage stuff: “Hey, Mom. This year, can we leave the leg lamp in the window all year?” Still not a word about getting presents. So I’m considering his request.

Happy Holidays!

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Thanksgiving on the Rocks

November 25, 2013 by

I love to cook, but the Thanksgiving production in my kitchen has lost its luster. On top of that, I’m not great at cooking gigantor birds, I don’t like stuffing, and it’s physically and emotionally impossible for me to make gravy. There, I said it.

My life changed a few years ago when I discovered a Thanksgiving secret. So let’s just keep this one between us, okay? Most grocery stores offer delicious pre-made turkey dinners. I saw this “secret” advertised in the newspaper. Most include a turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry relish. (Try buying your Thanksgiving grocery list for under a $100). Some also offer other sides you can choose from. But since I love to cook to relieve stress, not induce it, I get the dinner and make a couple of our favorite sides—usually green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.

Last year, I called a pal who had her in-laws in town on Thanksgiving Day. I could hear the sweat dripping from her head, pots clanking, kids screaming—and I’m pretty sure she cussed out her husband for being in the kitchen. When I mentioned the pre-cooked turkey dinner and that I just had to heat it up, her response was a shriek. “YOU CAN DO THAT?!” Yes, you can.

Here’s what you do. You secretly order the turkey dinner, pick it up, stash it, dish it on your china, and your family is none the wiser. You save money, everyone eats, and you don’t have the annual meltdown in the kitchen this year because all of the yelling about how the football game muffled the sound of the oven timers, and now the turkey is overcooked and the pie is burned. There’s not enough whipped cream to fix a burnt pie. Trust me, I’ve tried. You get none of that shame, and all of the glory with the pre-cooked dinner. We’ll all just keep it to ourselves, and go from there.

By the way, when you have time, money, and hands freed up from all that cooking, you can do some or all of these:

  • Serve dinners to the less fortunate.
  • Donate money for dinners to the Food Bank, Together, or other local agencies committed to fighting hunger.
  • Play with your kids.
  • Go for a run or workout before you eat (because you don’t have to tend to all that stuff in the kitchen).
  • Spend the rest of your Thanksgiving budget on Black Friday, or better yet, a nice bottle of wine.
  • When’s the last time you watched the entire parade?

 

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Fall in Nebraska

September 24, 2013 by

Since I’m from Texas, we are thankful to have several friends and family visit us here in Nebraska. Even though you and I know it really is “The Good Life” (wink, wink), it turns out Omaha is not everyone’s number one vacation destination.

My favorite time to have visitors in Nebraska is October. Guests get the crisp fall at the zoo, the fun pumpkin patches, and if they look around anywhere, they’ll witness Nebraska football.

No one does harvest celebration better than Omaha-area pumpkin patches. From corn mazes to hayrides to campfires, eventually you’ll get to the pumpkins. We all have our own favorite pumpkin patch cuisines. My daughter, Lucy, likes caramel apples. My son, Max, goes straight for the fresh cookies. My husband, Chris, however, usually picks barbecue. And I get succotash.

I train my visitors to do it right. Getting extra kettle corn on Monday to take with you to the zoo on Tuesday is practically a rite of passage.

Whether they have kids or not, they have to experience Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. I explain that there’s no need for a workout; we’ll be burning plenty of calories (consumed at the pumpkin patch) while walking through the zoo. I like to guide friends through the shark tunnel in the aquarium and mention that scene in one of the Jaws movies when the aquarium breaks. When we’re right in the middle, I point at the glass and ask, “Hey, is that a crack?”

The beauty of our zoo is the accessibility to the beautiful animals. The gorillas, the Desert Dome, or dining in the Lied Jungle—it’s all a unique experience. The kids like to take our family friends to the Kingdoms of the Night. They think it’s cool and spooky. And they like to show their friends how Mom freaks out in the bats section. Real funny, kids!

Still, the best part about Nebraska in the fall is football. I’ve been telling friends back in Texas (who think they are crazy for football) about Husker football, but they think it’s bigger there. So we make them come up here and see it for themselves. My friends are always surprised at the positive spirit of football, the tailgates, and warm welcome given to opposing teams’ fans. I make them watch the news the whole time they are here so that we can see how many facets of football is worked into the news: weather, traffic, recruiting, news reports, segues, etc.

Just remember, Omaha—fall is, in this writer’s opinion, the best time of the year to introduce out-of-towners to our home.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Please Open the School Doors

August 16, 2013 by

I enjoy my kids a lot. But by the end of summer, I’m exhausted, and the kids are bored. We’re all ready for school to start. I’m the wacky woman with nose pressed to the window of the school (like the crazy lady from the Target Black Friday ads)—ready for school to open.

I’m not beneath suggesting my kids are smarter than me. It’s not a stretch. I’m okay with that. My kids need/demand a few things: attention, intellectual stimulation, and activity. In short, I cannot keep up with them during the summer.

They are smarter, faster, and stronger. I can’t find enough to keep them engaged and entertained. And what’s with their physical recovery time? They could run a marathon, then announce, “Mom, I’m hungry.” Or “Mom I’m bored now.” Or “Mom, now what can we do?” Funny. Cleaning their rooms, mowing the lawn, or doing their laundry never seems to cure their boredom.

Could someone please open the doors for school? Please?

This summer we went on several road trips. We went camping. We let the kids stay up and then sleep in. We took full advantage of their spare time and had them help in the yard and do their own laundry. We had lazy days and even got caught in the rain a few times.

And so, soon after dropping my kids off for school, I want them back. I’ve just had so much fun with them this summer. I want them to hug me and tell me all about their day. Because, in the summer, I know about their days—I’m with them. Now I don’t know what’s going on all day. I try to get them to let me go to school with them, but I guess there are rules against that.

Summer is all about cool, new experiences and adventures. Back-to-school is all about seeing old friends and making new friends. And turning those brilliant minds back into high gear. Projects, essays, concerts, and games await us.

I must admit, I’m dreading the ridiculous morning routine for school. Can’t we start school a little later? Like, say, maybe noonish?

Why on earth (of all schools) would my district have the middle schools starting the earliest? Doesn’t the school board know we’re dealing with amateur teens here? Chemicals are literally brewing in their brains. They can’t function, and you’re going to hit them with a leaving time of 7:20 a.m.?

Let the “KIDS, GET UP, TIME TO GO LEARN!” fights begin.

And so school begins and summer comes to an abrupt end, as does the conflicted, intense, emotional battle of wanting to schlep our kids off to school while fighting the urge to never let them go.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Fashionably Late

July 22, 2013 by

I wish I could be the cool and fashionably late gal. But as it turns out, my body doesn’t process late or fashionable. There’s just one thing I put off until the last minute: buying school clothes. Aside from my disdain for clothes shopping, there’s reason in waiting until the very last minute—my kids grow, and they grow fast.

Being a six-footer since I was 12, you’d think I’d be completely aware of fast-growing kids. But just a glance at my kids’ feet and I’m overwhelmed. “Growth spurt” in our house isn’t so much the adolescent years as much as an incessant lifetime.

When I was a kid, school clothes shopping was a time-honored tradition a few weeks before school started. Not the case here. One look at my kids and their clothes, a slight calculation of weather not cooling down for a few more months, and we’re the chumps who wait for the first snowfall to go from flip flops and shorts to boots and pants.

If I buy my kids jeans for school, in August, they are guaranteed to be wearing said jeans as capris—maybe even Bermuda shorts—by October. Shoes are a crapshoot; they are updated when toes poke through the shoe.

Lucy needed a different color dance shoe than she had for her recital. Much to the chagrin of the dance teacher, who I promised I’d get the shoes, I waited until the week before the recital. Sure enough, when I took Lucy to get new shoes, she was sporting a full-size bigger than her current shoe.

Even with all those clothes and sizes in all those stores, with all of the updated fashion and technology, any mom with a kid of any shape or size has a hard time finding clothes that fit.

Factor in the new adventure of tween mood swings (I’ve passed down my bad attitude of clothes shopping) and the shopping experience is doomed to fail. There’s just something “unfun” about relentless reps of fiddling through racks of clothes, finding something both the kids and I like, finding their size, the right color, and then the calisthenics of oddly disrobing in an open-aired, quasi-private dressing room. You do all that, pull it on, and then it’s too short. So you get all your clothes back on, trek back out to the rack of clothes, find the next size, back to the dressing room, off with the clothes, on with the new find, and it’s long enough but too baggy. Tack on the fact that my kids now sport adult sizes. Finding age-appropriate clothes in adult sizes makes me feel like I’m Bear Grylls looking for food in the desert. Except my task is way harder.

So we wait. We wait on our shopping attitudes to change and for the weather to chill. The weather happens first. We’re still waiting on attitudes. A promise of mall food and a cookie can only buy so much time. Be assured, when we finally go, we get to the stores early. I’ve patiently waited until far into the school year to buy the kids’ school clothes. We go in, we try everything on, we find what fits and what the grumpy tweens like, and we buy everything in that size, style, and color.

The kids arrive to school fashionably late with their school clothes that fit…at least for a few weeks.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Home Improvement or Not

June 20, 2013 by

If you have a handy person around, it’s good to point out that “I can fix that” only suggests that it’s possible. If and when it actually gets done is apparently on its own moon cycle.

It took me a few days years to convince my husband that re-siding the house wasn’t going to bode well for a weekend project. Eventually, a compromise ensued: Paint the trim ourselves and hire a professional to do the siding. I mean, it’s just painting the trim, right? How hard can that be? (Note to self: Never ever ask that question again.)

We even got the kids involved, working together and frolicking in our cost-saving family togetherness. We did a team huddle, I poured the paint, and that’s when I threw my back out. Wincing but still determined, I couldn’t lift anything. I could bend over, but getting back up wasn’t really an option. So I taped off the top half of the windows.

The kids were eerily eager to play with paint. My husband, Chris, told them to not get paint on the driveway. They must not have heard that part because there were blobs of paint strategically where only the kids had been. Sick of being nagged, the kids took refuge with video games.

Once half of all the windows on the lower level were taped, we headed up to the roof for the next round of windows. At some point in this process, Chris twisted his knee. Now, we had a back-injured grump and a fresh knee-twirked grump hoisted up on the angled roof with no comfort in sight. I kept looking over each shoulder trying to find the best way to sit down without rolling off the roof. That’s when Chris and I struck up a conversation that no doubt saved our marriage:

Chris: “Maybe we should hire someone to do this?”

Me: “How much does it cost to pay someone to do this?”

Chris: “Whatever it costs, we’ll find it in the budget.”

Me: “I love you so much right now.”

Chris: “Let’s get down and go take a nap.”

And that’s how you turn a simple weekend painting project into a 20-minute Clampett’s themed re-décor on its own moon cycle.

Sidenote: I’m on the mend with physical therapy for my back. Chris’ knee seems to have been a by-product of being, ahem, older, and the rain. We’re that old now. And our house looks better for it.

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.