When you get to a certain age awkwardness kind of fades away a little. You get to live a few years of blissful awkward-free life. Having teens live in your house, some of that comes back to you. That shirt with those slacks look awkward. Your hair is a little awkward, Mom. And who calls them ‘slacks’? Awk, Mom–they’re pants.

I’ve been a parent for a while. I have friends and family who are parents. We’ve all gone through, or are going through, the awkward teen phase. This is not like the awkward stage pre- or early-teens go through, but the mid-teen phase where the embarrassment of parents is almost turning into pity because we, as parents, have hit the stage of knowing nothing!

I am having a contradiction of sorts with awkwardness. I am a fairly confident, comfortable-in-my-skin middle-aged mom. At this point in life, I am who I am. I try to be the best I can be of: a child of God, a child of my parents, a parent to my girls, an aunt, a friend, and most importantly I am the best Julie I can be.

After all that being said, that confidence and identity being bandied around–Gretchen and I were waiting to get her sports physical the other day and she was bored. She dug through my purse, used my lip balm, played with the flashlight on my keychain, and found my little notebook I use for blog ideas. She started looking through it and I felt awkward.

I think the vulnerability of it made me feel awkward. This is my child and she knows how I think. These are blog ideas that I will be posting online for anybody to read. Watching her read them, and listening to the ones she read out loud, was a little like having someone find your diary. Those are my ideas, but I haven’t fine-tuned them yet. Those are the thoughts I have, but I am not ready to share them.

She didn’t do anything but read them aloud. I got over being embarrassed about it. She did not once pity me for not knowing anything. She read more, and a couple of them are (hopefully) funny ideas. We laughed. I snorted, as I sometimes do, just as the doctor walked in.

Okay well, that was  awkward.

Attention Deficit Dis–Hey, how are you?

I am not sure I would actually be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, but I could be. I have I diagnosed myself with a version A.D.D.

It’s been said most people with A.D.D. are really trying to juggle too many things — “multi-tasking.” I call mine interrupt-tasking. I start out with the very best of intentions. I will clean my house, do my laundry, get groceries, and do yard work today. I will. But I always find a way to interrupt my thought process.

I will start to clean my kitchen. That means I need to load the dishwasher. Better check the living room to make sure there are no glasses and snack dishes. Huh, who’s socks are those? They need to be in the laundry. While I’m here, I’ll just do this load. That’s not a full load so I’ll grab the towels. Oh, so that’s where I left my bathrobe. Better hang that back up. As long as I am in my room, I might was well make my bed. Oops, there’s my water glass from last night. While I am here, I might as well start the kitchen and load the dishwasher …

I can’t even tell you how many meals I’ve missed.

My youngest definitely has had her A.D.D. moments, but I am finding as she matures she is outgrowing this. It used to be if you told her take care of her shoes, she would–but only one at a time, with a reminder for shoe number two. She has become very focused and organized and can actually stay on-task quite easily. My older daughter has always been very focused and organized. This has never been an issue for her.

I’ve tried the tricks. Write things down. Stay focused. Don’t listen to music. Listen to music. Ask for help. Work independently.

I try to focus. I really do. It’s sometimes hard to see the big-picture, so I focus on the details. I write things down, then I find myself doodling in the corners of my paper. I don’t often complete the details in linear fashion. I definitely chase that butterfly’s path.

I’d love to share more, but I need to go load my dishwasher. Did I just hear my dryer buzz?


I am Ornery.

Writer’s block. I’ve hit it.

I only have six other posts on here, and wham! It hit me already. Can’t think of a dang thing to write. Wait. That is not true–I can think of a lot of things to write, but believe me they are not that entertaining. And I want you to come back.

I am ornery this week. For no reason that I can put my finger on, I am just ornery.

It may be how irritating people are–and they are! If you go outside your house, do you know what you’d find? People. Right there and everything! Do you know what they do? Stuff. They go about their days to take care of their things, but do you know where they do it? The same places I do. Do you know why that bothers me right now? Neither do I. Probably because I am ornery.

You know what else I makes me ornery? Laundry. It doesn’t do itself, you know. At all. Ever. And when you wash and dry it–it still needs to be folded and put away or hung up. Who has *time* for such nonsense?

Cupboards and refrigerators don’t fill themselves, you know. I guess if someone in our house would get off her ornery throne and get groceries, this wouldn’t be an issue. And reminding me that I am the mom and the one with the throne might just make me ornery.

That coffee cup in the sink? Who do you think put it there? Oh, wait. That’s mine. Never mind. I’ll get it. Man, I love coffee. But I’m still ornery.

Okay. I could go on and on (and on and …) but I really do want you to come back. I will have something more entertaining next time. I’ve got four great half-blogs started. Well, four half-blogs, not sure how great they will be. But I’ll finish them later, when I am not ornery.

But for now, I am ornery. I will own it and get over it.


Autumn’s Resolutions

Not everyone resolves to make changes in his or her life at the new year. I do. I have absolutely horrible follow-through, but by golly I resolve to change every year. I will eat healthier. I will exercise. I will dutifully put away small change to build my savings account. I will plan technology-free family time.

Then we hit that first weekend in the new year and I decide to sleep in. Since I already ruined the Saturday by neglecting my exercise, I may as well put a little extra cream cheese on my bagel, and that touch of Carolans in my coffee is a well-deserved treat. You know, the treat for already breaking my new year’s resolution. In for a penny, in for a pound–I have already ruined the day, I may as well cut into my small change and get beer, soda, chips, and dip for the television-filled movie time with the girls. If I am going to break my resolve, I will be taking the girls down with me!

So, I comfort myself by trying to eat better but not go overboard, after all I’ve already ruined the whole year by one day of weakness. Then as time goes by and the year gets shorter, I start thinking about the next year’s resolutions I need to make. But wait! Hold the phone–is this not the time of year that the new school year starts? Are we not planning schedules anew? This is my saving grace, that second chance I get to save my year.

Yesterday, I was able to grasp that straw of renewal. We went school shopping. We bought pretty new folders, notebooks, pens, pencils, student planner, and locker supplies. We made plans for how my daughter will juggle her school schedule, cheer schedule, studying time, and social life. We tentatively outlined and planned the days, weeks, and months of the school year.

I mentally planned to coordinate my saving-grace period of resolve with her organization of her schedule. I will plan our family dinner menu, clip coupons, diligently grocery shop, and prepare meals lovingly and consistently for my family. I will get up tomorrow and begin a steady and healthy workout routine.

Mmhmm. I slept in this morning. I have absolutely no idea what I will be making for dinner–probably will buy something on the way home from work. So much for working out, planning dinners, and not spending money. School doesn’t officially start until Wednesday. I can always start then …

The Difference a Couple of Years Makes

I posted the other day about how it was a strange experience to have a shy child when you are so very outgoing. Well, rest assured–God’s sense of humor is well-intact.

Oh, that funny, funny God!

We should have known from the moment of her birth that she was going to throw us for a few loops. We were prepared for the wonderful reports that expectant parents get–her first cry, weight, length, etc. Not to cast doubt on the doctor who delivered our precious bundle, but when he congratulated us on our girl we thought he perhaps he didn’t graduate at the top of his class, eh? Girl? I carried her completely opposite from my first pregnancy and we thought our vast experience of one pregnancy qualified us to predict the sex of babies, thank you very much. Nope. It does not. Sooo … after all those months of calling our wee-shy Lars, we quickly had to retrain our mouths to say Gretchie. One look into our precious baby’s face though and we got it! There was our Gretchie! (Here is where I should state that our mothers were both relieved that it was not a boy, as they were not big fans of the name Lars. I still like it a lot.)

To say God created us each as individuals is proven time and time again in my life. First and foremost, my twin sister and I are complete opposites. Second and just as foremost are my own two sweet girls. Gretchen is very outgoing and social. As a little baby and toddler, we had to keep a vigilant eye on her because she liked to find new people to talk to, and she talked to everybody! Cashier, customers, library patrons, church members, people on the street, diners in restaurants–she held nothing back. Because of Gretchie we made a family rule, “what happens in our house, stays in our house.” Strangers did not need to know that Daddy or Mommy said a swear word. Neither did our parents or our priest.

My mother has often said that four-year-olds like to talk to just hear their own voices. I have found this to be true, except in the case of Gretchie. She started at two. I was raised with the notion that if a child has something to say, you listen. It’s important to them, even if it is not to you. I have lived that way. I admit that I have spent countless hours listening to nieces and nephews, and friends’ children, and children I’ve babysat or did daycare for tell me details of stories because it was important to them. Gretchie was no different, in that I’ve listened to countless hours of her stories. What I did differently with her encouraged her to follow Mommy while I cleaned, cooked, gardened, etc., otherwise I would have been stuck in one place for a very long time. I’d probably still be stuck listening to the story that started in the school parking lot about a hot dog and ended fifteen minutes later in our driveway–and somehow ended up being about a blue butterfly. I swear listened intently, I have no idea how it changed. But it did.

Grace fell once and had to go to the emergency room. I was a nervous wreck–my poor baby! Emergency?! Oh, if I only knew my future … Gretchen had so many trips to the emergency room we no longer needed to show I.D. and insurance cards–they just asked if it was the same as the last time. She had a favorite hospital. Did you catch that? We went *often* enough that she had a favorite. Think about that for a second. She was a child. A favorite. <sigh>

Eventually her balance and klutziness settled and the trips became less frequent. But that talking! So many of our parent-teacher conferences had the phrases, “Gretchie likes to talk a lot.” “Gretchie has to work on her attention span.” “Gretchie has strong social skills.” You get the picture, yes?

Gretchie is now a junior in high school, so I am sure I have two more years (at least) of many of these experiences left. As long as I got my hair dye to cover that grey and keep my humor, we’ll do just fine!




Our Daughter is What?

When you find out you’re going to have a baby you imagine every detail about him or her. Whether you are parenting through birth or adoption, you imagine who they’ll look like, which traits they will inherit from you–or if they will branch out on their own and show you a whole different side of themselves that you and your spouse don’t even have. I assume that’s what it’s like for everyone; it was for me.

My first delivery was a long endeavor, and Miss Gracie took her very sweet time (and sixes seemed to be prominent in her entrance–almost thirty-six hours of labor, born on 06/06/1996, and fifteen minutes shy of 6:00 pm. I’ll just let you come to your own conclusions! 😉 ). When she was born, we got the details that new parents do–it’s a girl, she is this many pounds, she is this many inches, that’s a healthy cry. The only surprise at the time was that she had red hair. Both her father and I are blondes.

We were blessed to go through the normal growing stages with both of our daughters. They learned to roll over, crawl, scoot, walk, feed themselves, and play with others just as children should–all to prepare them for school and the social behaviors that go along with learning.

Here I will take a slight detour to give a brief synopsis of both Chris (my ex-husband) and me. We are outgoing. We are VERY outgoing. We are loud. We (think we) are funny. We presume ourselves to be the life of any and most parties. If there is a story to tell, we will fall out to tell it–usually with a lot of hand gestures and facial expressions. We’ll even fill in others’ voices, if we need to clarify what so-and-so said. This was how we raised our children. This is what our home life was.

Back to my eldest …

Grace lived happily her first five years in our home, though she was a little more quiet, more somber, and serious than Chris, Gretchie (other daughter), and me. She still shared stories, squealed, was loud and was funny. I come from a large family with lots of grandchildren and we had a close circle of friends with children our children’s ages. There were lots of “known” children to play with as she grew up. As the onset of school approached, we happily bought a backpack and school supplies. We proudly bought the approved school uniforms and pretty little shoes. A new lunch box and a supply of snacks? On it! We are ready for school.

The first day of school started great. We were in the afternoon class of kindergarten. We woke and had a yummy breakfast, had playtime with my daycare children, and got ready for school. And my pale little redhead got more pale. Then she turned green. Then she got sick all over her newly purchased school uniform and pretty little shoes. I stared at her. I tentatively asked if she was scared to start school. She cried. What? Think Julie, think! What is this? Think back to your first day of school.

I *clearly* remember marching right out to the school bus my first day of kindergarten, ready to take on the world in my pretty yellow dress with ruffles (it was the 70’s–I was hip). Where was my twin sister, Kathy? Y e a h . That’s right. Mom had to drive her to the school and walk her in. My twin sister was terrified to start school. Oh. Oh my. Do …. do we have a shy child? Quick! Try to remember. Yes, there are the memories–Gracie hiding behind her dad or me when we met new people, very quietly answering questions asked of her in her toddler years, not wanting anyone but Big Daddy or Mommy holding her. That’s right. Hmmm. Now what to do?

I looked at my child in a new light. Granted, I didn’t know what to do in this new light, but as any parent will attest, you adapt quickly. Instead of marching into the school and taking on this new world loudly and with great humor, we quietly walked in and met the teacher. We stood at the edge of the room and took in each and every detail of the room and how it was set up. The teacher (a true gift from Heaven!) stood so patiently and waited for Gracie to get acclimated. Then we three moved about the room to investigate. Then I stood and watched my baby girl take the teacher’s hand and step away from me to begin this glorious new adventure. Suddenly, I wanted my shy baby back.

I got that wish the next day when it was time for the second day of school. She definitely is one who takes a while to process change, but she made it.

My baby is now eighteen. She is still shy. She still resists change. But she has learned to take her time and process the next step in every situation. Okay, she stresses out THEN processes the next step. She doesn’t need to hold my hand anymore. Suddenly, I want my baby back.


Adventures in Babysitting

I have teen daughters. As I’ve mentioned, one has graduated and one is a junior in high school. It’s fairly easy to calculate that their ages are eighteen and sixteen.

Herman has three boys. The oldest is thirty, the middle is fifteen, and the youngest is six. The oldest is a grown man, the teen spends much of his time with his friends, and the youngest spends a lot of time with Herman and me.

This past Saturday, Herman had errands to run a couple of hours away. I told him to leave Diego (the youngest) with me to make it easier. I found that meant easier for Herman. :/ I forgot that six year olds talk a lot. A lot. Do you know what six-year-old boys like to talk about? Minecraft. Do you know how long they like to talk about Minecraft? Neither do I. He hasn’t stopped yet.

As we walked my dog, Annie, we discussed Minecraft. As I cleaned my house we talked about Minecraft. While we did grocery shopping we rehashed Minecraft. Driving to and from the store? Strategized Minecraft. As we took care of groceries he mentally redesigned and improved Minecraft. Cleaning dog poo from the front yard? He theorized on the video game he will invent some day, based on Minecraft.

For a multitude of hours, my portion of our conversation was brief, but it obviously suited his purpose, and that purpose was to allow him to continue his one-track conversation, as six year olds are wont to do:

Diego: Julie, did you know that in Minecraft you can Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft and Minecraft?

Julie: Can you?

Diego: Yeah. Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft.

Julie: Huh. How about that?

Diego: Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft.

Julie: Yeah?

Diego: Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft.

Julie: Really?

Diego: Yes and Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft.

Julie: *sigh* And then what?

Diego: More Minecraft.

The saving grace of the day was Diego decided he wanted to go out to play and Annie needed to go outside. As I put Annie on her lead and turned to go back in the house, Diego started to tell Annie what he was going to build in Minecraft.

I swear I heard Annie sigh. I didn’t turn to meet her eye—I just kept walking.


Womb Mate

I am not sure how my twin and I went over forty years without hearing that term, but we both broke out with guffaws when our friend, Denise, used it the first time. Of course, there are times when we are easily entertained, but Denise is funny.

Twins are not uncommon, but it can be a novelty. Here are answers to the basic questions we both get when someone learns we have a twin but haven’t met the other twin yet:

We have no idea what it is like to have a twin. We also don’t really know what it’s like to not have a twin. We are not bothered in the least by that question, we just don’t have an answer for you. We can answer what it’s like to be single, married, a parent, etc. We have frames of reference for those questions. Twins? We’ve never, ever not been a twin. No frame of reference.

We are not identical. At all. We have the same, exact blue eye color. And we are female. And we have the same family members. That is pretty much where our similarities end. No, we don’t have twin names. SHE was unexpected. (She was also named after a sister’s doll. Mom says no, it was a great-grandmother, but we all know …) I was lovingly planned. Or, at least for nine months one baby was planned. I am the oldest. Therefore, I was planned. She tagged along. I tell her this often. Mom always tries to bolster her, but we all know …

I’ll expand on our looks first, then we’ll get to the personalities. Because, wow. Our looks and personalities could not be any different.

Kathy, the twin, looks like my mother’s side of our family. Her hair is dark blonde/light brown, very straight, and grows very fast. Her teeth are naturally straight and there is something so unfair about that. She has a beautiful singing voice and sings to the likes of Bon Jovi, Journey, Boston, The Carpenters, and Suzy Bogguss. That really isn’t part of her appearance, but it’s true nonetheless. We both have big, beautiful, room-warming smiles, but my whole family is blessed with them. She is bigger than me. Taller. Fuller. More muscular. So not only did she crash my glorious entrance into this family, she took all the growing juices. (Yes, she used to beat me up. A lot. Pulled me off the top bunk once. MOOOMMMMM!)  Of the four sisters, she looks much like the oldest sister, Gwen.

My looks are straight from my dad (except the end of my nose–purely Mom). I have blonde hair, naturally curly, and it grows slower than molasses in January. My teeth are gorgeously straight … and cost my parents handsomely to get them that way. I can put on some awesome concerts–Metallica, Godsmack, Avenged Sevenfold, and Disturbed to name a few–as long as I am alone. Singing is not my strongest talent. I am not a very big person. Frequently get called mini. Now that I think of it, maybe that started my high heel fascination. I look very much like our sister, Susie. (In fact, she is frequently mistaken for my twin to friends who’ve not met my siblings. I can even see how much we look alike.)

But wait! The differences do not stop there! I think our personalities are what made both of us stop short of letting horoscopes plan our lives. For us being born at the same time, under the same sign, we could not be any more different. Don’t get me wrong–we have our twin moments, but not a lot. Actually, a lot of our twin traits are also shared with our six siblings. Pretty sure that’d be classified under “family traits” and not “twin traits.”

I am an extrovert; she’s an introvert. I walk into a room and I *will* take over this party! She lets me. If I find humor in something, I share it now. If she finds humor, she will quietly tell those close to her. If she makes someone mad, she’ll not be quiet about it. Same goes if someone makes her mad. If I make someone mad, I’ll try to fix it when I can. If someone makes me mad, more than likely they’ll never know it. I am afraid to try to new things, but if I don’t I won’t know if I like it. If Kathy is afraid to try new things, I usually tell her how it was so she can try next time! 😉

This is just a snippet of us, but above all  I have my very own built-in champion, supporter, partner, advocate–my God-given best friend. We love our differences. We love living vicariously through each other’s traits. Above all, we love.

Well, here goes …

I asked my oldest daughter last night what I should write about for my first blog. She stated it should be how awesome she is. So it shall be, but I will also be including her sister–she’s pretty awesome, too (and a little about me. I am pretty awesome, too.)

Grace just graduated high school and is struggling at the moment with decisions for her future. She has a lot of opportunities in front of her. I would love to wave my magic wand and know what the best option is for her, but we all know that life doesn’t work that way. I am pleased for her that she has a struggle with these options–any options. She is a great kid. Well, a great adult. She is very helpful and hard working. She is funny, fun, sometimes shy, sometimes out-going, a hard worker, and overall … pretty awesome. She likes NASCAR, hockey, football, concerts, country music, rock music, classic rock music, cooking, healthy living, and fitness.

Gretchen is a junior in high school. She is also struggling with decisions for her future, but gets to think a couple more years on them. She is already investigating colleges. She, too, is a great kid. She is funny, fun, NEVER shy, very out-going, hard worker, hard player, and overall … pretty awesome. She likes hardcore music, a little country music, concerts (a lot of them), NASCAR, and hockey. She doesn’t like cooking so much (she caught a towel on fire once, set her back on cooking now), but she is a world-class eater. Thank goodness she, too, also is healthy and fit. She is the proud owner of two rats, Duncan and Barry; and a cat, Martin. Truth be told, she also has a slew of stray cats that hang around our house. And a ‘possum named Dan. Long story.

At this point, I will state that I brag about my daughters a lot. Even if there doesn’t seem to be anything to brag about, I find something. I am extremely confident that they are the very best things their dad and I ever did. In life. Ever. They are awesome.

Me. Hmm. There is a lot here. Brass tacks: I am a middle-age mom. I am the seventh out of eight children (the eighth being a mere five minutes younger than me)–four girls and four boys. Well, women and men by this age. At least chronologically. I will not vouch for anyone’s maturity. I am fairly outgoing. I think I am a fairly likable person, though I can name at least three people right now who may think otherwise. I am not fine with that, but I am okay with that. It took me a long time to know that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. I work in politics, in a nonpartisan office. I, too, like NASCAR. And rock music. I watch football and hockey, but that’s because it’s always on in my house. I am dating my very first love, Herman, whom I met when I was thirteen years old. Oh, and I have a Rottweiler-mix dog, Annie.

I will also make a quick introduction on the girls’ father, Chris. We are divorced. We are very good friends. Better friends now than when we were married. We still truly want the very best for each other. He is a great dad. My daughters adore him, and that makes me happy. He is a drummer (probably their music influence from early on), a truck driver, very funny, a NASCAR and hockey fan, likes cooking, and is also a world-class eater. He just had a stress test (long story, and probably a future blog) so I know he’s healthy. I will sit quietly on the “fit” part, as I have no room to talk because I hit the snooze every morning on my “get up and exercise” alarm.

I’ve been through hell. More than once. I try to look at everything with humor. Even when it’s not humorous. I don’t always have humor when I am going through events, but can find it eventually. I give credit to my mother (and grandmother) in learning to deal with issues this way, based on hearing all my life that this, too, shall pass.