"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Tale of Two Brothers, Through Music

"Mommy!" Max interrupted himself. We were in the middle of breakfast last week and he had been telling us about...honestly? I'm not sure. Max is a talker. He's a story-teller and a Tiny Moments Of His Day Sharer and a nonsense-babbler and a singer. Words are constantly coming out of his mouth. I'm not proud to admit it, but I don't always give him my 100% complete and undivided attention. Especially on busy school mornings.

But in this moment, on this morning, he had my attention...all of it.

"Whoa, buddy, what is it?"

"The other day in Music, our teacher asked us: 'Where do you find music?' and I had the PERFECT answer!"

"You did?" I asked, intrigued by his sudden enthusiasm at having recalled this forgotten story. "What did you say?"

Max jumped down from his stool. "Music!" he started, as he dramatically, theatrically, gestured all around, "is EVERYwhere!"

He put his hand to his heart, "It's in your heart!"

"It's innnn your VOOOOIIIICE!" he sang.

He ran to the counter and began drumming a beat. "Music is IN THIS COUNTER!"

He patted his legs. "It's IN MY LEGS!"

He ran, drummed, gestured, and enthused around the room. "Music can be found all around! Anything that can make noise can make music! Music is everywhere. Everything. Is. MUSIC!"

By now, we were all staring, perfectly still, mouths slightly agape, stunned by Max and his effusive demonstration. We were captivated, as Max's audiences typically are.

"Wow." I said. It was about all I could muster at 6:43 in the morning.

A second of silence elapsed and Evan spoke up from across the room.

"Oh, yeah. She asked my class that question, too."

We all turned to look at him.

"Yeah? What did you say, bud? Where do you find music."

He shrugged as he speared his next bite of waffle with his fork.

"It's in your phone."

Lesson Learned:

My boys. My literal logician and my daydream believer. I couldn't love them more.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Goodbye, Home Sweet Home

After 38 years, my parents have decided to sell their house. The home to which I, and six of my seven brothers and sisters, were brought home from the hospital. The home in which we all learned to walk and read and throw a baseball and ride a bike. The home in which we honed our negotiation skills over bedtimes, desserts, chores, curfews, and access to the car.

This home.


When my parents first moved in, my oldest sister was just six months old. The 1950s split-level had three nicely-sized bedrooms on the top level, a small but adequate kitchen, dining room, and front room on the middle level, and a separate basement apartment, which my dad's brother rented from them. When my parents first moved in, my mom could wrap her arms around the tree that still stands in the middle of the front yard. 

When my parents first moved in, they had no way of knowing that they would spend the next 38 years of their lives in that house...or that they would  knock down the wall separating the basement from the rest of the house when my uncle moved out, before adding seven kids, a garage, two bedrooms, a larger kitchen, and a huge family room to the house.

The family room had to be huge to accommodate this crowd.



(The first Official Family Photo of all eight kids.)


Earlier this summer, some of the siblings gathered at our childhood home for one last staycation before my parents sold the house. We sat around the huge kitchen table...

This huge table: perfect for family dinners, lazy mornings reading the newspaper,
and cutthroat games of Catan and Scrabble.

...playing board games and sharing memories (really just the embarrassing ones...what group of siblings doesn't gather simply to make fun of each other?)... 


...while our kids played with our vintage toy collections in the family room. 



We tucked our kids into sleeping bags on the floors of our childhood bedrooms (which we constantly rotated among as we grew older and the oldest ones left for college, the large en suite in the basement the coveted spot). We sat on the back deck, which my dad built...the third deck the house has had as the footprint of the house grew with additions and more outdoor seating space became a necessity. 


It's amazing to think back on how this house has grown as our family grew. My parents did such a great job of seeing and appreciating our home's potential...helping the house to accommodate our family rather than seeking something bigger, better, newer. My parents were the ultimate Love It over List It types.

The neighborhood helped. With access to some of the best schools in the county (in the country, actually) and some of the best people a young family could want to grow up with, my parents lucked out in the location, location, location department. They had no way of knowing that when they first moved in. At just 25 years old, they weren't thinking of the long-term potential of the house or even of the school district. They assumed they'd move back to New Jersey, where their families both still lived, long before their baby started kindergarten.

When my parents first moved in to this house, there were two spindly apple trees in the backyard, which produced only small, mushy fruit, along with a screen of pine trees against the fence. My mom hated them all. But, with a baby (then two, then three...), a full time job as a nurse, and a police officer husband who was also attending law school, there wasn't much time (or money) for tree removal. Eventually, the apple trees came out (as did the clothesline) but most of the pine trees remain (save for a massive one that a lightning strike took care of a couple of decades ago). 

Despite adding a handful of kids to the mix, my mom eventually found the time for her yard. In fact, I think adding the handful of kids is what led her outside. A little peace and quiet, you know? My mom's yard is her happy place. The gardens surrounding my parents home are like something out of a magazine. My mom is a master gardener and her lush, fragrant spaces are the grandkids' favorite places to play. 




The remaining pine trees just beyond the adorable diapered baby.

My mom's garden is the one thing I think she'll miss when she moves. Luckily for me, I have a huge yard in desperate need of a green thumb, and she'll be moving in right around the corner.

This house. 

I'll remember Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings. 

I'll remember birthday parties and sleepovers.

I'll remember big messes and big fights.

I'll remember big celebrations and big happiness.

I'll remember the split stairs: the lower set I once fell down, resulting in a dozen or so stitches on my chin.

I'll remember the wall-mounted kitchen phone, which a high-school date knocked right off the base, in a nervous attempt at leaving the house with me after meeting my dad.

I'll remember the mantle: which, in addition to holding an ever-increasing number of stockings at Christmas, was the backdrop of many a family picture, prom picture, and random Toddler on Stool picture...


I'll remember the playset, which my dad built. It originally included two swings, a covered porch swing (which we called "The Family Swing"), a sandbox, an elevated fort, and a slide. The fort, the slide, the sandbox, and the porch swing were all eventually disassembled. The swings, though, are a grandkid favorite to this day.

I'll remember the house phone number. Forever.

I'll remember the top shelf of the upstairs linen closet. It was such a good hiding spot for those of us who were monkey enough to reach it, that once, while in the middle of a round of hide-and-seek with the neighbors, my mom opened the door to put away some clean towels and didn't notice me up there. (Or did you? Were you just playing along, Mom?)

I'll remember the built-in shelves and cabinets in the basement bedroom (also built by my dad...I kind of forget how much of himself he has put into this house over the years...). When the room was mine, once my oldest sister left for college, the shelves held my books, my collection of giraffe figurines (you're jealous, I know), and framed photos of my friends. Before that, it held my sister's make-up, which I used without her knowing. (She probably knew.)

I'll remember the shed in the backyard. Full of tools and lawn equipment, it's my boys' favorite hangout at Mom Mom and Pop's house.

I'll remember the roof, which my dad scaled once or twice a year to remove tennis balls from the gutters. I'll also remember the time my mom and I returned home from a shopping trip to see my dad up on the roof with MY 3-YEAR OLD. I had a heart attack that day, but Evan listed it as one of his all-time favorite memories just last spring. He'll never forget it.

I'll remember the front porch, which served as the location for every First Day of School Photo for all thirteen years of each of the eight kids' school careers. 

We have, roughly, a billion photos that look like this one...
just swap out my kids for my mini-brothers and sisters.

I'll remember which floor boards in the hall upstairs are squeaky.

I'll remember the cats and dogs and hamsters and goldfish and even Bob the Bird, who served as our pets over the years. 

I'll remember when my parents added the family room and expanded the kitchen. I was in 4th grade and Baby #6 had just been born. We lived in a kitchen-less construction site for weeks, cooking on a hot plate in the basement and washing dishes in the laundry room sink. I literally don't know how my mom survived.

I'll remember each and every time a new baby joined our family. I'll remember the same bassinet my parents set up next to their bed each time and the rocking chair my mom sat in while she nursed the babes. 

I'll remember the "big kid bedroom shuffle" as rooms were reassigned to accommodate the new tiny brother or sister. For awhile, three of the boys shared one room sleeping in bunk beds with a pull-out trundle. A family story which will live in infamy is the time the kid on the top bunk got sick in the middle of the night. The beds, and children sleeping in them, apparently looked like a crime scene.

I'll remember the fence at the bottom of the hill in the backyard. We hopped it to join the neighbors in a game of backyard baseball....our dog Moose running a trench back and forth on his side of the fence, barking at us to come back and play with him. The neighbors hopped it to hang out at the Keenan House...where we nearly always ended up, the favorite neighborhood hang-out. Once, on a snow day, my sister slid right under that fence in her sled. We don't know how it happened, but she ended up on the other side of the fence, completely unscathed.

I'll remember the shelves in the laundry room that looked like a grocery store. With eight kids, my mom bought in bulk. She stocked up on pantry staples and snacks when they were on sale and kept the extras in the laundry room. My cousin, who is an only child, marveled at the cereal selection when she came to visit. Food never went bad in the Keenan House.

I'll remember late nights hanging out with my brothers and sisters when we were home from college for holidays. Drinking beer, watching stupid TV, playing Clue.

I'll remember sitting with my boyfriend, Sam, on the back deck. I didn't know it at the time, but my mom took a picture of us sitting together, our backs to the camera. He had just told my parents that he was going to ask me to marry him.

I'll remember the bird feeders my dad set up all around the yard once the majority of his own little hatchlings had flown the nest.

I'll remember it all. And when I do, I'll remember it with these guys...

The 1st grade photos of each of the Keenan Kids.

Lesson Learned:
I can't believe I'll never visit 5207 ever again. I believe it when they say, though, that Home is wherever I'm with you.

I can't wait to share this neighborhood, one of my favorite places in the entire world, with two of my favorite people in the entire world.

Welcome to your new home, Mom and Dad.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

In Honor of National Trail Mix Day...

Ten years ago, if you had told me how much of my mental and physical activity would be devoted to thinking about, planning for, shopping for, preparing, serving, cleaning up after, and worrying about food, I wouldn't have believed you. But ten years and three kids later, food is a huge part of my daily life and not because I'm some foodie who is always on the hunt for some fabulous new recipe.

Nope. Not even close. Around here, we eat to live rather than live to eat, and I consider the day a success if I've managed to get a decent amount of nutrients and protein into my kids. I like food, really I do (particularly when it's prepared by someone other than I), but between food allergies, picky-eaters, bottom-of-the-growth-curve-huggers, oral sensory issues, and my 4-year-old's vegetarianism-by-choice, food is stressful.

I do have one secret, though, for taking some of the stress out of mealtimes: Snacks. If I can pack enough healthy goodness into snack time, I can relax a bit if Picky McPickerson doesn't touch his dinner. We have a couple of easy, healthy go-to snack ideas, but I'm always looking for new ideas to shake up our snack rotation.

I was recently invited by Nuts.com to create a trail mix recipe to enter into their contest in honor of National Trail Mix Day (August 31). I was excited to get involved because I like a good challenge, but also, with the start of school right around the corner, I'm thrilled to have a few new lunch-box ideas.

Here are my two entries (one nutty, one nut-free). Try mine or head on over to Nuts.com, browse their amazing selection of nuts, seeds, sweets, and dried fruits, and come up with your own favorite mix.

Goji-Nut High Five


  • goji berries: In addition to being called an anti-aging Superfood, Goji berries are a good source of vegetarian protein. They are rich in Vitamins A and C, a good source of 18 amino acids (including all 8 essential amino acids), and contain selenium, a trace element which has been shown to fight bacterial and viral infections. A little sweet and chewy like a raisin, Goji berries are a perfect addition to trail mixes.
  • pistachios (Roasted, no salt, no shell): Pistachios are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, thiamin, phosphorus, and copper. A good source of protein, these little nuts also have as much potassium as half of a banana!
  • cashews (Roasted, no salt): Cashews are an excellent source of protein and fiber. They also contain copper, zinc, magnesium, and biotin.
  • chocolate covered sunflower seeds (Natural colors from vegetable juices, no synthetic food dyes): Sunflower seeds are rich in protien, calcium, and iron but, let's be honest, these chocolate-covered goodies are to add a little sweetness to this savory blend! 
  • pretzels: for a salty crunch!

I usually don't measure out our trail mix ingredients. I just add a little of this and that until we have a pretty blend of salty, sweet, crunchy, and chewy. Our Goji-Nut High Five fits the bill perfectly. This one will definitely going into Max and Molly's snack rotation.


Most of the trail mixes we make in our home are nut-free, not to exclude our nut-allergic kiddo. For him, we came up with the Rainbow Pop trail mix. Although this mix does not contain any nuts, please be aware that when ordering from Nuts.com, all products are manufactured in a facility that does process nuts.

Rainbow Pop Trail Mix



  • pepitas (When ordering from Nuts.com, please note that roasted pepitas contain peanut oil): Pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, are a powerhouse seed rich in protein, iron, and phosphorus. They are also a great source of healthy fat and dietary fiber.
  • chocolate covered sunflower seeds (Natural colors from vegetable juices, no synthetic food dyes): Sunflower seeds are rich in protien, calcium, and iron
  • dried cherries: a little sweet, a little tart, these dried cherries are the perfect addition to this trail mix. Cherries are rich in potassium and Vitamins C and B. They also contain specific antioxidants thought to aid in the prevention of heart disease and cancer, while also promoting pain relief and healthy sleep.
  • popcorn: We pop ours on the stove in a little bit of coconut oil and add a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt (chosen by Max, at Costco, for it's color...who could blame him?).

I love a good old, traditional, nutty trail mix. This light, nut-free alternative is an excellent combination of flavors and textures. It's visually appealing to selective eaters and, maybe best of all, it's School Safe!




Lesson Learned:

Thanks, Nuts.com for inviting me to participate! If you have never visited the site, head on over to Nuts.com. Their products are of the highest quality and their customer service is outstanding. The website is pretty incredible, too. Looking for something high in protein? Antioxidant-rich? Something sweet but packed with nutrients? You can find out tons of nutrition information on each product page, not to mention tons of recipes and snack ideas. That has to be my favorite part of Nuts.com.

Well, the recipes and the chocolate covered sunflower seeds. Mmmmmmmm!!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

the last skirt he ever wore

The call came moments after we had tucked the kids into bed on a busy school night last spring. It was Max's kindergarten teacher and she was calling to let us know of an "incident" that had occurred in the moments before school began that morning.

The kindergartners who had been dropped off at the car drop-off loop were lined up against the cafeteria wall, as they were every morning at that time. As usual, the little ones talked and giggled together as more friends joined the line, their busy little bodies kept in check by the watchful eyes of a few Assistant Teachers who monitored the growing crowd. The children only stood here for a few minutes each day, filling the gap of time between being let out of their cars and into their classrooms. But a few minutes each day, for several days in a row, can be all it takes for a child to break.

On this morning last spring, Max finally broke.

The Assistant Teacher's attention was brought to the situation by Max's loud, angry voice saying to the little boy beside him, "I'm DONE! I'm not TALKING about this anymore."

Max is often loud. He sings loudly, he enters a room full of company loudly proclaiming, "Hey, people! Get a load of MEEEEE!" He bangles his bracelets together loudly when we're trying to watch a movie. He laughs loudly, too, often falling to the floor in overly-dramatic hysterics.

But he is rarely angry.

As the Assistant Teacher approached the boys to find out what was going on, Max turned away from her, hiding his face as he blinked back the tears. "I don't want to talk about it," he told her. "It's fine."

But she knew it wasn't fine and wasn't going to let it go until she had gotten to the bottom of what had happened. It took time for the story to unfold. Max talked to his teacher about it, but didn't start opening up to me about the specifics of what was said to him until weeks later.

What had happened had actually been happening repeatedly over the past few days. This little boy, new to the school and in a different classroom than Max, just could not wrap his brain around the fact that Max is a boy. I get it. Max is probably the first skirt-wearing boy he has encountered in his five-and-a-half short years on this planet. But apparently, Max had spent the past few mornings repeating his stock responses trying to convince the boy of this truth:

"I'm a boy who likes to wear skirts."
"Clothes are for anyone."
"I'm a boy who likes girl things."

To which, he was repeatedly questioned:

"Are you telling me the truth?"
"Are you sure you're really a boy?"
"How can you be a boy if you're wearing a skirt?"

And ultimately, the final straw:

"I don't believe you. I think you're lying."

Harsh words from a five-year old to a kid with a moral compass as strong as Max's.

The Assistant Teacher, Max's teacher, and the other boy's teacher handled the situation in exactly the right manner, in my opinion. They were careful to protect Max's feelings and right to self-expression, while at the same time using this as a Teachable Moment for the other little boy.

But I couldn't help but cry a little as I heard the story relayed to me over the phone.

I didn't cry just because of what Max had been through. He might encounter more kids (and grown-ups) like that throughout his life and I feel like we've helped prepare him for those encounters both in helping him to form his stock answers and by being a constant source of safety and acceptance for him. No matter how dark the world is, our home will be light.

I cried because, just 30 minutes before the phone call, I had been helping Max pick out his clothes for school the following day. He selected a tee shirt and a pair of leggings but, when I held up a choice of two coordinating skirts, he chose neither. "No skirt tomorrow?" I had asked him.

"No," he replied nonchalantly. "Not tomorrow. I think I'll save my skirts for weekends, now."

I hadn't questioned it at the time, but after hearing what had been going on in the kindergarten line, it sure seemed like some jerky kid had influenced Max's opinion of what was Acceptable To Wear. So I cried.

I cried because I felt like some of the innocence had been lost.

*****

In the months since this happened, Max has worn a skirt two, or maybe three times. All but one of those times has been on a day when we didn't leave the house. We don't talk about it much. The skirts are still in his closet and he has complete freedom to choose his outfit each day.

At Target this morning, we browsed the new Cat & Jack kids' clothing line. He picked out a couple of tees and a few pairs of leggings for his "back-to-school clothes." As we passed the rack of skirts, I stopped. "How about any of these?"

"No. I'm kinda off skirts these days."

"Why is that, babe?"

"I don't know," he said, flipping his hair, cocking his hip, and holding up a pair of sparkly leggings "These are just so much more ME. Ya know?"

He tossed the leggings into the cart and went over to check out the accessories.

He's still got it.

Lesson Learned:

I'm learning that Max's self-discovery is going to be a journey for me, too. I'm going to have to be flexible and adapt to the changes that will inevitably come as he decides how he wants to present himself. It might not always be the same presentation of self from one situation to another...and not all changes will be negative ones. Max may have adopted this new no-skirts policy regardless of the kid in the kindergarten line. Who knows?

Just like we all had our "going out" clothes in college that we wouldn't have worn to class, Max's wardrobe will reflect who he feels comfortable being in that particular time and place. Bracelets up his arm and a beaded head band at home, black capris and a pink tee at school. It's all about comfort. And it's all okay.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

from the mouths of babes

Hey, strangers! Guess who doesn't have time to write anymore now that the kids are home for summer! All these words swirling around my head, hoping to come out, and I just can't find the time. Sound familiar? The kids are in the basement at the moment and I thought I'd take a minute to pass along a conversation I had with Max the other day.

This is a great conversation to read if you're feeling guilty about your parenting for whatever reason. Maybe you're not being the Summertime Fun-time Mom you wanted to be. Maybe you're raising your voice more than you want to. Maybe you're not-so-silently cursing under your breath every time you lather up to go outside because putting sunscreen on small children is Just The Worst.

After you read this, you'll feel better about yourself. You'll think, "Well, at least my kid doesn't think I'm a criminal."

Ready?

Here we go.

***

[Scene: The living room. Max and Mom are snuggling on the couch. Everyone is calm. Everyone is happy. Nothing is happening that might predict what is about to be said.]

Max: Hey, Mommy, guess what I always think about.

Mom: I don't know, bud, what do you always think about?

Max: I always think about how what if you're not really my real Mommy.

Mom: Wait...what?

Max: I always think that maybe you're not my real Mommy and that maybe a long time ago you captured my real mom and dad and now you and Daddy are just pretending to be my parents.

Mom: Wait. Max. You're just being silly, right? You didn't really think that, right?

Max: Haha! I know it's silly! Haha! But what if you did? And you captured my mom and dad and you kidnapped me and you're just pretending now.

Mom: Max, baby, you know that I'm your real Mommy. You were in my tummy and Daddy and I went to the hospital and I had you. You've been with me for forever and I've loved you since the second I knew you were in my tummy. You know that, right?

Max: Yeah, but what if all of that was just pretend? What if you and Daddy are, like, really good at pretending to be my parents?

Mom: .....

Max: ...and this whole time I've been thinking that you're my real parents and I have no idea that my REAL real parents are somewhere else because you captured them! Isn't that funny? That's so weird.

Mom: Yup. That's pretty weird. But Max, I'm your real Mommy and I would never do something terrible like capture someone and kidnap their kid and pretend to be that kid's mom. Okay?

Max: I know, Mommy.

[Max and Mommy hug.]

Max: ....but what if you're just pretending to mean that?!

***

Lesson Learned:

What the hell?

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Answer was Molly

At bedtime a few weeks ago, we reached Level: Desperation. Max's pre-bedtime anxiety had hit a breaking point and so had I. For days leading up to that particular bedtime, there had been tears. Painful, sobbing tears over something that hadn't even happened yet, but that he knew was coming. His tears, leading up to the final kiss goodnight, and mine once I left his room. But really, the trouble had been brewing for weeks.

Max had been having nightmares nearly every night. At some point between midnight and 5am, he'd come running (literally, running) into my bed, curl up tight against me, his chest heaving, his cheeks wet with tears. Our night disrupted, sometimes for an hour or more as he resettled into sleep, we'd both wake groggy and cranky. In anticipation of the nightmare to come, bedtimes had become the worst parts of our days. His tears were starting earlier and earlier before tuck-in.

We had tried everything we could think of: we left his light on, piled his buddies all around him, shut his door tightly (at his request), talked about his worries while snuggling, validated his concerns while tickling his back, etc. Still, his tears started creeping back closer and closer to dinnertime, threatening to ruin our attempt at calm and pleasant Family Evenings.

Finally, we reached the bedtime of Desperation. I posted this photo and appealed for help from my Instagram family:

A photo posted by sarah harris (@sarah.livelaughlearn) on

My people came through and I received lots of great suggestions--guided meditation, a protective ring of amulets and/or buddies around his room, more exercise during the day, "No More Monster Spray," Guatemalan Worry Dolls, extra night lights, a Good Dreams Fairy, etc. I was anxious to try everything at once...they all seemed like such promising ideas. I needed to take it slowly, though...one thing at a time.

The very next day, we made dreamcatchers.



We talked about how it would catch his bad dreams before they got to him. In the morning, we would shake it out and send the bad dreams away for good. He asked if it was "real." "Does it really catch them? Do dreams fly through the room before they get into my head?" I told him it was a symbol. Dreams don't fly through the room, but before bed each night, if you look at your dreamcatcher, it will remind you that you're in charge. Put the bad dreams in there so you have room in your head for the good dreams.

We talk a lot about having a Not My Problem Zone in our heads, too. When you hear something that has nothing to do with you and isn't in your power to solve, you can put it in your Not My Problem Zone, leaving room in your head for solving problems that are in your power to solve. For the kids, we use it keep them focused on their own business and not wrapped up with what their brother or sister or friend is doing. For me, it's helpful in letting me keep on living and raising my babies in this world that seems so terrible at times. ISIS? Not My Problem Zone. There are other brave people working on that one. Teacher Appreciation Week? Okay, cool. I'm on it.

We hung his dreamcatcher next to his bed (and one in Molly's room, too) and it seemed to help...for a night or two, then the tears started to creep back in. We tried a few of the other suggestions but nothing really seemed to stick...until Max came up with a solution on his own.

He asked Molly to move in.



For the past three weeks, Molly has been sleeping in a sleeping bag on Max's floor. One or both of them still winds up in our bed at some point in the middle of the night, but since that very first night of cohabitation, there have been No More Tears. None. Not one.

It was working so well, in fact, that we decided to make the move a permanent one.


Lesson Learned:
And from this day henceforth, I shall curse the damned top bunk on Sheets Changing Day. 

But the sweetness that is our new tear-free bedtime makes it all worth it.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mommin' it up at Widespread Panic


I'm not what you would call "fun."

I mean, I can be funny. I can have fun. But when people think of me, "fun" isn't usually the word they think of. It's more like "punctual" or "always prepared" or "that one who likes to curl up on her couch with Netflix and then go to bed early."

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I'm the person you call if you've forgotten what time the Kindergarten Musical starts. If we're meeting for coffee, I'll be on time because I'll actually be early. Do you need baked goods for a PTO function? I'm on it. I'd love to join you for a Mom's Night Out...can we be home by 10? If your kid falls and scrapes his knee while on a class field trip, I've got the band-aid. And yes, I'm the chaperone.

I'm just not your Wild and Spontaneous, Up-for-Anything, Party Girl.

Well, not usually.



***

My friend, Ahna, texted me last week.

"Do you like Widespread Panic?"

I cringed and wrote back: "Don't hate me...what do they sing?"

She sent a smiley emoji, then my phone rang.

"I've got two tickets to the Widespread Panic show tonight," she said. "Wanna go?"

I looked at the sprawl of destruction in front of me. Homework to be completed, dinner to be cooked, an entire house full of toys to be put away. It was 4:45.

"What time would we be leaving?"

"I don't know...around 6?"

I couldn't just not help the kids with their homework. I couldn't just not cook dinner. I couldn't just walk out the door and leave my house looking like a complete wreck.

Thunder rolled and a bolt of lightning lit up the room.

Plus, it was raining. I couldn't just go to a concert in the rain. And I was already in my pajamas.

"Um...well..." I started.

Ahna finished my thought. "No pressure," she said, "I'm not a huge fan or anything. I have the tickets, though, so I thought I'd ask."

I looked out the window as the rain started to pick up. The kids were calling me from the basement to come look at their fort. I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner.

"Ahna," I said, full of a feeling I don't normally feel...I think it was courage. "We should go. Fun people say Yes. We should say Yes. We can be fun!"

"Well, they are box seats..."

"I have no idea what that even means. I think we should do it."

"We totally should."

"Okay, we're doing it."

"I'll pick you up at 6:15."

"Ok. Yes. You will. We're really doing this."

"Yup! It'll be great. See you in a bit."

I hung up the phone, took a deep breath, and, like such a mom, I googled "Widespread Panic."

I called Sam, shocked the hell out of him with my plans for the evening, ran down to the basement to see the kids' fort, then went upstairs to put some actual clothes on. I decided on skinny jeans...you know, so I could wear my rain boots.


Maybe it's not super cool to wear rain boots to see Widespread Panic, but the venue was an outdoor pavilion and we'd have to walk a few blocks from parking to get there. It was going to be wet and I was going to be grumpy if my feet got soaked. Plus, I was wearing my L.L. Bean rain coat so I didn't have to worry about my boots giving my Mom Status away. No way was I going to blend in with a Widespread crowd.

After entering the gates and getting our drink tickets, we followed the smell of weed to the stage. Our tickets came with these super exclusive orange wristbands, which let us in the box seating area. 


Boxes didn't seem to be prime real estate at a Widespread Panic show, though, as we were the only ones sitting in the whole section. Everyone was up at the front, passing joints and getting up close and personal with the music.

"Let's go up front!" Ahna suggested. (For the music, not the joints.) Ahna is way more fun than I am.

"Um, maybe in a bit." I said, not quite ready to dive into the crowd. So we sat drinking our beers, talking PTO. As moms do.

Our friend Shannon and her husband (who actually ARE fun and who actually WERE there for the music and not just because they had free tickets and were trying to prove a point) met up with us a bit later. By then, we'd finished our beers, and I realized that I actually DID like the music. They remind me a lot of Phish, with a little funk, a little Led Zeppelin, and a touch of southern rock thrown in. They're a jam band. They're the kind of band I listened to when I WAS fun and went to shows and... you know...did the fun stuff that fun people do at fun shows.

I was ready. "Ahna. Let's go up front."

She led the way. She's little and sweet and everyone loves her, so she had no trouble "Excuse Me"ing her way through the crowd.



We were IN the crowd. We were surrounded by hippies and college kids and everyone was dancing and happy and loving life and so were we. It was pouring rain and I was wearing a raincoat from freaking L.L. Bean and I am such a mom and I was dancing and I was having so much fun. 

People at Widespread Panic shows are Good People. They were kind and courteous...one guy turned around and saw little, sweet Ahna, who only came up to the small of his back, standing behind all 6'4 of him. "You should stand in front of me," he said, "I don't want to block your view." They are generous...not only were they sharing their joints and bowls with each other (not us), one guy even offered me his french fries. It was really very sweet. I just wasn't very hungry at that moment.

We ducked back through the crowd to get another drink and use the restroom. It was crazy: for the first time in the history of the world, there was a line, 50-men deep, for the men's room, while we just walked right in to the women's room. (Lines at one bathroom while there's another bathroom with no one waiting is another reason why gendered bathrooms are stupid.)

By the time we returned to our box with our drinks, it was intermission. We sat reveling in our fun-ness and talking about our kids...as moms do.

Then, the band came back out and so did we. This time, Ahna led us all the way to the front. Almost. We were only three people back from the stage. And it. Was. Awesome.



Lesson Learned:
If someone calls, and offers you tickets to a show, you say Yes! You'll be glad you did. And you'll be glad you have a fun friend like Ahna, who lets you pretend to be fun, too.

And wear your rain boots. Even if it's not rainy, the floors are gross. You can hose those babies off tomorrow.


Actually, you can hose them off the day after because, if you're really going to Mom it up at Widespread, you'll be chaperoning a kindergarten field trip to a farm the next morning.