Totally upgraded

The Maiden came home from school the other day with a bag full of dragons.

Drawings of dragons, that is. They were elaborate and interesting and artistically pretty good, and I told her so. But apparently that was not what she wanted to hear.

“These dragons, Mommy? Don’t you think they’re totally upgraded?”

Me: “Totally what?”

Maiden, shaking her head: “Oh, Mommy. It’s just, like, a thing.”


It’s happened. I said it wasn’t going to happen. I believed it wasn’t going to happen. I snickered at my parents because it had happened to them, but I would be immune.

Then she pulls this “upgraded” thing and upgrades the rug–or downgrades, maybe–right out from under my feet.

I always planned to be the cool mom, hip to the slang the kids were using. Totally with it. Do kids still say “with it”? I don’t know. I’m not cool anymore.

I tried to salvage my dignity. “Yeah,” I muttered, hoping to sound cool. I just sounded tired. “Totally upgraded.”

The moment the words crossed my lips, I knew it was a mistake. They tasted of vinegar. They tasted of compromise. They tasted of clueless parent who has no idea what’s, like, totally upgraded these days.

Geeze, it’s a stupid expression.

It’s going to take me some time to crack the code of pre-tween technoslang. What does “totally upgraded” even mean? It’s illogical. “Upgraded” means it has all these bells and whistles and apps and functionalities that are so complicated and confusing that by the time you get them figured out, it’s time for another upgrade. That doesn’t sound cool to me.

Then again, I’m clearly no longer cool myself.

How do you even make a “slanguage” out of wireless technology?  Since when are kids talking in terms of flat little boxes of wires and circuits that create expenses for mom and dad? If something cool is totally upgraded, is the opposite “Wow, this class is a big crack in my iPad screen?” Maybe it is. I could be onto something here.

What happened to the rad stuff we used to say in the ’80s and ’90s? Has it gone the way of “Good golly!” and “Jumping Jupiter!”? This is so totally, like, bogus. Something needs to change.

Back in the day, we had grand dreams. We wanted to ride the big waves and throw back our hair and look awesome and be Californian. At least our language did. We were relaxed. We were cool.

Now we’re not.

I feel out of the loop. I hate being out of the loop. Can you take classes in this stuff? Shouldn’t it be part of continuing professional education for parents–something to help us keep abreast of the latest developments in the dumb expressions kids use?

Now that would be, like, totally upgraded.

The game

Last night I sat in the dance studio, waiting for the Maiden to finish her tap class and scrolling through yet more online drama as the elections coverage began.

And maybe it was the cold studio, or the fact that the Maiden had just come out for a water break, snatched my drink, and glugged the whole thing down, but I was feeling slightly snarky. I wanted to post this as my status: “Thank goodness the elections are almost over. Then we can get back to our usual civil discourse on breastfeeding, circumcision, and vaccination.”

Maybe not.

And yet, maybe so? Continue reading

Seven months later

Last spring–just seven months ago–I had made a list. Not your traditional to-do list, with its pay the electrical bill, buy cream of tartar, replace the light in the dining room. This list was a big one, full of huge unknowns as we prepared to make a cross-country move that summer. I didn’t know the answers and I didn’t know how we’d find them. The anxiety consumed me.

And yet at the same time, as I packed away our sweaters in anticipation of milder temperatures, I realized that I also needed to pack away my worries. For whether I fretted or not, all those pressing questions and fears for the future would be resolved by the time the weather turned cold again. In just seven short months, I would know the answers.

That was late March.

Now it’s November. Continue reading

And it was good

So here we are, on the other side. The rain’s petering out. The wind’s died down. There are leaves and twigs scattered around the neighborhood. Kids are home from school, but stores are starting to open again. Our family has power and we made it through “Frankenstorm” safe, warm, and dry.

Earlier yesterday evening, I was surfing the web in a last-ditch attempt to make maximum use of the internet in case we might lose it when the worst of the storm hit. As usual, The Atlantic had some great photojournalism going on. I scrolled through the shots tracking Sandy’s progress.

Haiti and Jamaica and Cuba. Destruction and peeling shacks. People standing in their one-room coastal houses as the water rises around them. Old men poking through rubble. Kids running the devastated streets.

A surfer riding the big waves in New Jersey.

I stopped. I stared.

Do we have any idea–any idea at all–how incredibly lucky we are up here?

I am by no means making light of any damage suffered by victims of Sandy here on the Eastern seaboard. Believe me. I’ve dealt with hurricane damage back when we lived in Florida. It’s scary and exhausting and even heartbreaking.

But There. Is. No. Comparison.

We get flooded out, we have trees fall on our houses or cars, we have to evacuate, we have power lines downed and boxes ripped off the wall and electrical fires and whole cities shut down.

But in the midst of it all, we are still so much luckier than half the rest of the world.

We can afford to buy canned goods and stock up before the storm. We have stores that can get sold out. We have the luxury of fighting over generators.

Do we have any idea how lucky we are?

We follow news coverage to track the storm’s path and the minute-by-minute forecasts. We snap photos and upload them to citizen journalist sites and keep tabs on the rest of the community. We text friends to check in on them, and even when we lose power we grab our charged phones and post Facebook status updates to let our family and friends know we’re okay.

Do we have any idea how lucky we are?

How many people in other countries face a disaster situation without communication, cut off from neighbors and the larger community? How many have to wait it out and just hope they make it? Hope they don’t get washed out to sea? Hope they can pick up their lives and go on?

Who can’t even imagine a place whose “devastation” and “destruction” and “brought to a standstill” is better than their everyday?

A place where we pull out DVDs and iPads and craft kits to entertain our kids. Where we can afford to joke about boredom or stuffing ourselves with junk food or riding out the storm with a bottle of wine. Where we dance outside in the rain and heck, even go surfing on the storm surge–because deep down, we know it’s going to be okay.

Because the sun will come out and the work crews will swarm in to clean up our cities and restore power. The kids will be back in school. We’ll repair the shingles and replace the screens and call the insurance about the damage to the shed. We’ll smile and get back on the interstate and the world will be back to normal.

We’ve endured discomfort. We’ve endured inconvenience. We’ve grumbled and shuddered and agreed with the screaming-loud headlines announcing devastation.

But the truth is that even in the worst of times we have everything, and we don’t even know it.


When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

When life hands you a Frankenstorm, which means no school with a cranky kid and a deadline you still have to meet because the flexibility of working from home means the ability, sadly, to work no matter what the weather or the driving conditions on the interstate, you . . . well, you get creative.

You start cleaning closets, but then you get distracted by whines of “I’m booooooored” that peal into your consciousness about the same time that you discover the Magic School Bus Weather Kit you’d forgotten you’d bought. It seems fortuitous, but maybe it’s a you-make-your-own-luck sort of thing–in the sense that you are the kind of people who like buying stuff, especially educational stuff on clearance, for your kid, but you don’t like to spoil your offspring by actually giving it to her. Your rationale is that you’re saving it for a rainy day. On the other hand, today is in fact quite a rainy day and probably a good time to break out some of it.

Everyone is all smiles, initially. And so you make a thermometer, a wind vane, and, most appropriately, a rain gauge–which you fasten to the porch with weaving loops from your child’s potholder kit. Will it stand up to hurricane winds? You might be on the verge of a breakthrough here.

But after an hour of science lessons, including a failed bid to make a barometer, which is really too bad since hurricanes are the perfect time to use one–well, you’re on the verge of a breakdown. Continue reading

It’s how you play the game

A week and a half ago, a horrible, horrible thing happened. My computer died.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It didn’t die, it was killed–think negligent homicide. And there was more than one bad guy in the story. Continue reading

Truth fairy

“A long time ago, a little girl was sad because her beloved tooth had fallen out. And so her Mommy and Daddy tried to cheer her up with a beautiful story: a tale of a special fairy who took that tooth and placed it as a star in the heavens above. The fairy brought money or a little treat in exchange for the tooth. And that was how it began . . .”

That is how it began a few months ago, and that is how it will begin this evening when we sit down with the Maiden. But even the sweetest tales must eventually come to an end, and tonight this book will be closed. Tonight we will say “Good night” to the tooth fairy. Continue reading

Good neighbors

My favorite Americans.

Two hundred years ago, there were neighbors who were friendly enough. Then they looked over the fence at each other and frowned. They argued. They fought. They burned stuff and attacked each other and created a big mess, but it never really resolved anything. So they went back to borrowing cups of sugar and watering each other’s plants, or whatever good neighbors are supposed to do.

Fast-forward to 2012: the neighbors are joined under one roof, and together they’re navigating the ups and downs of a dual-nationality house. Continue reading

Good morning, good morning

I am swimming.

Submerged in the depths.

Utterly still. At peace.

But then–a stab of pain. A sharpness, a sudden sharpness that drags me up through fathoms of darkness toward the searing light above the water. No! I must stay deep below the waves. Downward I struggle, desperately seeking the place where it cannot reach me, but I am weak. I am losing the fight. Steadily, angrily, it drags me up, up, up–past layers of heaviness and ringing and frothing brightness–until I can no longer resist the screaming in my head, and the noise and light consume me.

Then I reach over and hit the alarm clock. Time to start another day. Continue reading

Get your gear, you’re signed up for soccer

Actually, she isn’t signed up for soccer. Even though her school offers it. Even though it takes place on a day that she stays late. Even though she owns soccer gear. Even though there’s no extra cost. Even though there’s no reason in the world not to.

Except that there is one reason: She said, “No thank you, Mommy. Maybe in the spring.” Continue reading