To the Cougar at the Pool

Let me get this straight.

You really thought you were going to bring your perfectly make-up’d, perfectly coiffed, cougar self to the club on a holiday to lounge in the pool, flirt with the lifeguards and keep your hair dry?

Lady, you had one too many organic agave margaritas. There is a reason the rest of us are wearing ball caps. We all have salon hair. We all have dreams of keeping it safe.

It’s a pool full of water and kids though. The hats are really only a gesture, so that we can tell our stylists without sinning that yes we did take steps to protect the weave.

When you waded in with your drink in your hand, what did you think was going to happen? This isn’t Vegas. There were four babies in swim diapers. Water in your hair was the least of your concerns.

But no. You huffed and puffed in annoyance. You dropped an f-bomb or two. Most of the ball-capped mamas rolled their eyes at your expecting to stay dry in a pool and shooed their kids away from you.

It says something about you–and it’s not nice–that you are willing to be rude to kids, counting on the fact that their moms won’t confront you.

It must have surprised you to learn that sometimes, a ball-capped mama with her third vodka-poolwater-tonic in hand will witness you giving her kid and his friend the business along the lines of “You need to stop splashing. I already told you to stop. I’m not going to tell you again.”

She will get up from her seat at the table and grab a water cannon. It’s not hers but that doesn’t matter because she is going to war for all the mamas. You’ll see her coming and harden your face for a “chat”. She’s not coming for words. She’ll walk down the stairs into the pool next to you and load that cannon. Then she will hold it in the air like the freaking Terminator and say “What are you going to do, Gino?”

You won’t know–how could you–that this is a time honored challenge in her family. You’ll look confused as you wonder who she’s talking to. It’s hard to tell through her sunglasses under her hat brim.  Maybe Gino is that big guy across the pool laughing out loud. She waits for an answer. You’ll decide that your hair is not worth the mystery. You’ll get out of the pool.

Good call. Gather your things and leave with all the dignity you can muster. And next time remember: family-friendly pools come with a 99% chance of wet hair.

So bring a cap.







Lose on Purpose



You know this whole American culture of win at all costs?

It’s got to go.

Our fellow humans are not our opponents and at some point we have to realize that sports is not a great analogy for life.

I’m not directing this at any one person.

Although Donald Trump is kind of the poster child of this whole King of the World movement. And doesn’t he constantly look like a five-year old with a bad case of pouty face? I would have sent him to his room in January and he’d still be there by our house rules, which are “Don’t come out until you can be nice.”


The other day I was trying to think of any great historical leaders who made their people or places better by maintaining their own personal superiority to everyone.

I came up blank.

I can think of lots of great historical leaders who made their people and places better by putting their people and places first. Or even better, their God first.

There may be a lesson for Americans in there somewhere. I don’t know. I’m not responsible for all of us. Only my people and places.

So for us, this has been the summer of Lose on Purpose.

Which does not apply when wearing a uniform (so my brother and Dana don’t have coronaries and die when they read this.)

What I mean is that my kids are going through that phase where they need to be right. Even when they’re wrong, which means it’s really about winning. After a Spring of listening to ridiculous “No, it’s not—Yes, it is” one day I lost my mind and yelled “DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???”

It was a rhetorical question. But God answered me:

They take after you.

And so they do.

I started thinking, What’s the hardest thing for me to do in a situation where I feel challenged?

The answer is—to let it go.

To choose not to take it personally, or to make it my mission to correct others. To let them be wrong. To let myself be wrong. To admit that I am not in charge of everyone.

And—because people who want to be right and win more than anything else really struggle with this—to always be truth-full.

Which is why Hillary would also still be in her room by our house rules.

I figured we could go cold turkey on this whole idea, hence the summer motto. It actually has two parts: Lose on Purpose. Lift others up instead of squashing them down.

Like every other piece of parenting, it’s a marathon slog, not a sprint. There have been moments of understanding, like when Gabe rode his sister’s pink bike so his friend wouldn’t have to.

And there have been afternoons where they’ve been banished to the basement to preserve their own lives and my sanity.

But I knew we were on the right track when, after watching Trump in a news conference the other day, Kate said “He needs to learn to lose on purpose.”

And then some.



No Turtles

This right here? This is good stuff: “Are we raising a generation of helpless kids?”

 “We made our kid’s happiness a central goal – and now it’s difficult for them to generate happiness — the by-product of living a meaningful life.”

Timely, since here I am at home for the summer with my 8 year old,  6 year old and  2 year old who still needs a nap. They do not play well with each for more than 20 minutes. And sometimes by play well, I’m only talking about agreeing on the same TV show.

They’re bored, they’re hungry, they’re mean to each other and the next thing we know, mama is a screaming harpy and everyone’s been grounded til they’re twelve.

I guess I could take control of every minute of their day and schedule them into exhausted silence. It’s tempting. I know lots of moms who do.

But then I remember my “No Turtles” rule.

We started it when Gabe was about three and he’d pseudo try to do something, such as put his shirt on himself, and then he’d flop like Arjen Robben and wail “I can’t do it!!!”

I used to tell him “Don’t act like a turtle on your back, arms and legs kicking in the air! Figure it out.” This evolved into our “No Turtle” rule.

So if I hijack summer, my days might be more peaceful, but the long term result will be a household full of turtles. “Mom, I’m bored! Mom, we never do anything! Mom, I wish we could go to Disneyland! We never have any fun!”

No thank you.

Dearest children of mine,

This summer, the management will no longer be providing Perfect Days. There will be many, many opportunities for fun and games, but very few of them will be directed by Mom.

We went to the library, so there are books to read.

We went to the teacher supply store, so there are workbooks and science experiments.

We’ll keep up our tradition of the weekly trip to the mall, because Mama loves her some mall. We’ll hit the waterpark once or twice. I’ll set up play dates upon request. Maybe a trip or two to the beach. VBS, for sure.

And there are 12 kids in a five house radius. Everyone can learn a new game, like “tag” or “hide and go seek”. After a long day playing outside, I could probably be talked into making ice cream for the lot of you.

I know this is different, but we have no choice.  If we continue to take responsibility for your happiness, where does it stop? I met a lady last week who is planning her son’s honeymoon—not just paying for it, planning it down to the daily excursions and nightly dinners.

Can you imagine getting a text from your mom on your honeymoon: “Have you guys gotten dressed for dinner yet? If you’re running behind, let me know and I’ll call the restaurant”.

Someday you’ll thank me.

In the meantime, remember the new house rule: If anyone says “I’m bored” or “There’s nothing to do”, I automatically get to pick a new activity. My current favorites are “Put the laundry away”, “Pack a box” and “Vacuum”.

Happy Summer!

Love, Mom






What’s In a Name?



One of my best friends is pregnant with her first child and just found out that she’s having a girl. When she sent me the text, I asked “Does she have a name?”

“Work in progress.”

A few days later, she texted again, no hello, how you doing. Just this:

“How many Olivias are there in Gabe and Kate’s classes?”

“None. Why?”

“We’re thinking about Olivia but are worried it’s too common.”

I had Teresa ask Siri where Olivia lands on the Top 100 of girls names.

“Looks like it’s #3 on the Top 100.”

“I know.”

“Can her middle name be Grace so we can call her the OG?”

“No. Olivia Claire, mom’s middle name.”

“I love it. Love it. And if you love it you should go with it and not worry about the other Olivias. That’s coming from a Jennifer. I know what I’m talking about.”

I was born in 1972, at the peak of Jennifer’s popularity. I spent the first 12 years of my life called Jenny F to distinguish me from the other five Jennys in the class. I survived. So will Olivia H.

“We are also thinking about Vivienne.”


She and I are Ya-Yas from way back. In fact, we ditched graduation duty to see the movie on the day it came out.

“Yes! Or Devynn. Or Blake.”

I’m down with the whole gender neutral naming trend. Devin was one of our boy names when I was pregnant with Annie. And we have two Quinns in our close circle. My kids call them “Boy Quinn” and “Girl Quinn” to keep them straight in conversation.

“When we were picking, I would imagine hearing the name on a loudspeaker or see it running along the bottom of the screen on ESPN.”

No, I am not kidding.

“That’s all I do, too.”

“Midfielder Olivia H— Or, midfielder Vivi H—“

“Mine more says “US Olympic Gold Medalist”

“Now playing on center court…”

“Now you’re with me!”

“Do all moms pick names this way or is it just us?”

Dana did it too. She was kicking around Cossette when she was pregnant with Violet. Then I made her think about the trash-talking across the net if the 6’3’ setter was named Cossette.  I got your Castle on a Cloud, b***h!

Needless to say, picking a name is a big responsibility.

The year that Gabriel was two, I wrote my family names on the board for a project, and one of my students raised his hand and asked if my son was the only one in the family with a Mexican name. I laughed, because I have taught some wonderful Gabriels in my career—all of whom happened to be Mexican American—but we picked his name for the archangel, the right hand of God, defender of the light against the dark. Which is probably how the other Gabriels got their names as well.

I took full advantage of Shea’s English heritage to choose queen’s names for my girls.

Kathryn Grace was the first ever baby name that popped into my head when I found out I was pregnant with Gabe. It took two more years before we got our Kate.  When I call her Kate, I see Katherine Hepburn, and hope that she takes the same big strides in the world, with the same sense of humor and maybe a little less booze.

Anne’s full name is Anne Elizabeth, which I justified because Ann is my mom’s middle name and Elizabeth was my grandmother’s middle name. But that’s a pretty regal name on a little girl. When I “Anne Elizabeth!” her in my mom voice, people always stop to look.

Olivia/Vivienne/Devynn/Blake’s mom actually asked me after Anne was born if I was naming my daughters in the order of Henry VIII’s wives on purpose and if the next one would be a Jane.

That made me laugh too. Because, kind of. And maybe. Let’s face it: you take the jerk husband out of the equation and those women were pretty bad ass.

So to answer the question: hope, dreams, love, Bible, family, culture, tradition. And maybe a wee bit of humor.