Making the grade

When my kids were little, I did a bit of substitute teaching. After I accidentally threw an encyclopedia and flipped a desk over, I realized teaching elementary school probably wasn’t for me.

Teachers are comprised of strong stuff. The molten lava that flows through their veins gives them courage and an unbreakable gaze. A skeleton made of graphene (200 times stronger than steel) keeps them steady and protects their hearts. And those hearts beat a consistent tempo that opens doors to new worlds and encourages students to find their own rhythm.

But teachers are exhausted.

I attended Viewmont Elementary during the 1900s, where teachers were the top of the food chain. I worshiped the good ones, feared the difficult ones, and loathed the mean ones.

I remember the “trip” our kindergarten class took to Hawaii where we ate coconut and learned the hula. And the teacher who caught us eating snowballs, so she melted snow to show us the dirt and grime. (I haven’t eaten a snowball in more than 45 years.) Or the teacher who shamed me for not knowing the word “chandelier.”

School was where I learned social skills. Okay, I learned them poorly, but I did learn some. I interacted with people my age where we talked about our favorite TV shows, what we had for dinner and whether my crush winked at me or had a tic.

Today, students feel lost.

My 8-year-old grandson started the school year online, changed to in-person learning, then went back online. He might enjoy hanging out with his mom, grandma, and little demon of a sister, but he misses his friends.

Imagine trying to learn long division on a Zoom call. I couldn’t even learn it in person. Or imagine hosting a virtual call for a class of first graders who have the attention span of a meatball. My mom thought education was vital, but if she had to supervise online learning for me and my four siblings, she would have sold us to the circus.

Teachers are struggling. Kids are struggling. Parents are struggling.

If we’ve learned one thing this crappy year, it’s that superheroes walk among us. Healthcare workers and winemakers are tied for the top spot on my list, with teachers, students, and parents finishing a close second by demonstrating unprecedented resilience.

Many kids are failing this year, but are they really? Can you fail when a global pandemic changes the rules? When teachers adapt daily to shifting conditions? Can you fail when parents work full-time jobs at home while staying on top of online assignments and hybrid schedules?

Teachers are a mighty mix of educator/guidance counselor/cheerleader/cruise director, and this year their creativity and patience has been tested. It brings to mind my husband’s favorite quote, “Looks like I picked the wrong [year] to stop sniffing glue.”

This is a thank you to the teachers who work with my grandchildren. The teachers who are innovative and kind. The teachers who show up like a boss and get to work. This is also a thank you to the students who have proven to be flexible and strong. They’re all doing the best they can as they watch adults try to figure everything out.

Maybe we write this school year off; maybe it’s not the year to learn geometry or teach Latin. Perhaps it’s the year we value kindness, connection, and self-care for everyone involved. I promise, there’ll be much less encyclopedia throwing and desk flipping.

Originally published in the Davis Journal

The Sound of Silence

When I was a kid, seat belts were weapons used to smack your siblings. We’d sit on opposite sides of our Chevy Station Wagon and relentlessly attack each other. We never used them to secure ourselves in the vehicle. It never even occurred to us – or our parents.

Bike helmets were used by . . . well, by no one. I never knew anyone who even OWNED a bike helmet. We just had tons of concussions, which explains a lot of GenX behaviors.

Because kids are stupid, childhood is crazy dangerous. Parents dash from one potential disaster to another, trying to stay ahead of their children’s inclination to attract and invite peril. Kids regularly jump from couch-to-couch (avoiding lava), run with scissors, touch hot stoves, play on the stairs and fall out of trees.

We try to be vigilant. We do everything we can to protect our kids.

When babies were strangled by dangling window-blind cords, warnings were issued and regulations changed to keep kids safer. When children thought cleaning supplies looked tasty, manufacturers added childproof lids and told parents to keep the poisons out of reach. (Sidenote: Tide Pods hadn’t been invented yet.) Toddlers trying to stick forks in electrical outlets were thwarted by outlet covers.

Every year, hundreds of children’s products, from toys to strollers, are recalled to keep kids safe.


But in America, more than 1,600 children are shot and killed1. Every. Single. Year. Firearms are the second leading cause of death for children in America, and the first leading cause of death for African American children.

When our children are killed by guns, there’s only silence.

Eight children died from injuries related to a specific IKEA dresser that easily toppled over. In 2016, the company recalled more than 17 million dressers and warned consumers about the danger. It took only eight deaths to prompt action.

In 2004, 150 million vending machine toys were recalled when they were found to contain high levels of lead. Federal regulators in 2016 issued warnings about exploding Hoverboards, prompting retailers to take the product off the shelves.

But each year, nearly 6,000 children in the United States are treated for gunshot wounds2. Every. Single. Year.

When our children are wounded by guns, there’s only silence.

The United States now holds a grisly honor. More than 90 percent of firearm deaths worldwide, among high-income countries and affecting children aged 0 to 14 years old, happen in our country3. It’s been declared a public health problem and a serious pediatric issue. Firearms kill more of our children than cancer or drowning.

Yet the silence from our elected leaders echoes. Like a gunshot.

We allow more than 7,000 children in our country to be shot every year.

Seven. Thousand.

We’ve learned the importance of seat belts, the necessity of bike helmets. We’ve learned to anchor dressers to walls, keep poisons on the top shelf and use those irritating cabinet locks to keep our children safe.

But every day, 16 children die or are treated for a gunshot wound in the U.S. because the legislators who are supposed to create laws to keep our children safe are deafeningly mute.

Our children can’t take any more silence.



  1. Cunningham, Rebecca M., Maureen A Walton and Patrick M. Carter. “The Major Causes of Death in Children and Adolescents in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine, 20 December 2018,
  2. Katherine A. Fowler, Linda L. Dahlberg, Tadesse Haileyesus, Carmen Gutierrez and Sarah Bacon. “Childhood Firearm Injuries in the United States.” AAP News & Journals, July 2017,
  3. Grinshteyn E, Hemenway D. “Violent Death Rates: The US Compared with Other High-income OECD Countries.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, March 2016.

Things We Forget


There was a time, before we got all jaded and grumpy, that our main purpose was to have fun. As kids, we jumped out of bed every morning, eager to find the best ways to a) get candy, b) meet friends, c) watch cartoons and d) avoid chores at all costs.

We had it all figured out. Why did grown-ups make everything so difficult? Politics, manipulation and sociopathic behaviors were things we didn’t understand. (I still don’t understand.)

After life punches us in the face for several decades, we get out of bed a little slower and rarely find time for cartoons or candy. Friends become precious. Chores increase exponentially.

But maybe those 10-year-old versions of ourselves were right all along. Maybe we need to remember some basic rules about life that were totally obvious to us before we finished elementary school. These things are truths at any age.

  • Going to the bank is boring—unless there are those chain-attached pens you can play with
  • If you’re good at the store, you might get a Butterfinger
  • Going to the zoo sounds like a good idea, but it’s actually exhausting
  • Visiting grandma gets you spoiled
  • Sometimes you need to stay in bed all day reading a good book
  • Making friends is easy
  • Going to bed early is a punishment
  • It’s okay to cry when your feelings are hurt
  • Saturday morning cartoons are awesome
  • Spending an afternoon in the park is the best use of your time
  • A $20 bill makes you rich
  • When your friend is mean, it’s okay to tell them that wasn’t nice
  • It’s fun to be excited for birthdays and Christmas
  • Eating cold cereal for dinner is the best
  • Throwing a water balloon at your sister is thrilling
  • You never have to watch your carbs
  • Shoes aren’t always necessary
  • Cloud watching is not a waste of time

So how did we go from being fun-loving kidlets to cranky adults? When did we decide it was better to be busy than to have fun?

As with most terrible things, I blame the teenage years. Being 13 years old can be devastating. If you watch the movie Eighth Grade, be prepared for some serious junior high PTSD as a beautiful young girl destroys her own self-esteem with anxiety, junior high romance and pool parties. Seriously triggering.

Once we drag ourselves out of the primordial swamp of high school, we’ve become a little less trusting and optimistic. Then we double-down on our cynicism as we enter the workforce.

When you were in elementary school, dreaming about the time you’d be a grown up with your own car and the ability to eat ice cream after midnight, you never considered the possibility that working sucks. Sure, we saw our parents come home from work, down a bottle of gin and collapse on the couch like a bag of old pudding, but that was because they’d had SO MUCH FUN at work!

Something needs to change.

If you find yourself scowling at happiness, it’s time to check back with your inner fourth-grader and do something fun. Skip work and go hiking. Have an ice-cream sundae, without promising to jog later (because 10-year-olds don’t jog). Start a conversation with a stranger. Spend $20 on something entirely useless. Have Lucky Charms for dinner.

We need to remember, it’s fun to a) get candy, b) meet friends, c) watch cartoons and d) avoid chores at all costs. Life’s too short to grow old.

Originally published in Iron County Today–

A Brief History of Children


When silly, old Eve chose wisdom over nudity in the garden of Eden, what was her punishment? That she would be fruitful and multiply. In non-biblical words, she was doomed to have children. Seems like the penalty didn’t really fit the crime.

Did she understand, as she grew rounder and larger and moodier, that a parasitic growth was stealing her nutrients, sleep and sanity? When the baby started kicking, did she consider the fact she might be possessed by an evil spirit? She was correct.

There were no childbirth magazines, no social media sites, no mommy blogs–nothing. She was alone. In the wilderness. With a baby. (Yes, Adam was there. Not sure what he was doing. Probably renaming animals and practicing his Tarzan yell.)

Depending on your level of belief in evolution, fast forward thousands (more likely hundreds of thousands of years) and motherhood has become a thing. I guess it caught on, even though the process is brutal, bloody, hormonal and excruciating. And that’s not even considering toddlers and teenagers.

As mothers there is only one absolute when it comes to raising children: You have NO control.

Your kids will scheme, manipulate, scream, disobey, fight and lie right to your face. They’ll make you feel like you’re the worst parent in the entire universe, and they’ll have data to back up their claim. They’ll be ungrateful, unforgiving, cold, unreasonable and impossible. You’ll often feel like hiding under your bed with a bag of Oreos and a warm blanket. (Don’t bother. They’ll find you–and steal your Oreos.)


(Daughter heading out to go clubbing? Just smile and nod.)

You’ll seriously worry that your kids will end up on COPS or Dog the Bounty Hunter, and you wonder how they’ll tolerate you visiting them in prison. You’ll get upsetting phone calls from teachers, irate emails from neighbors and you’ll start avoiding eye contact with parents at the grocery store. You’ll be convinced that once your kids have left home (whether through arrest or by other means) you’ll never hear from them again.


One day.

You’ll find yourself having an enjoyable adult conversation with this person who once threatened to call social services on you. You’ll receive a text message with a smiley-face emoji and you won’t wonder if you’re being manipulated. Your kids will come for dinner and no one will storm off to another room and slam the door. It’s almost like interacting with humans!

You’ll realize these tiny terrorists who never let you have one ounce of privacy are suddenly pretty cool. They talk in coherent sentences and speak without complaining or retaliating. You’ll watch them try to reason with their own little toddler tyrants, and while you might have the occasional eye tic of sympathy, you’ll feel an unconditional love.

There’s no right way to be a mom. We get up every morning with the best intentions. Sometimes we succeed. More often we fail. There are no accolades, awards, thank-you notes, pats on the back or even an encouraging smile. We all feel we’ve done it wrong.

I’m sure every mother since Eve has experienced that overwhelming feeling of inadequacy as we teach these children how to adult. We can only pray they’ll do better than we did.

The TRUE Cost of Having Children

The Department of Agriculture recently announced it takes $250,000 to raise a child through high school. Why the Dept. of Agriculture? Because children are similar to vegetables.

I think this estimate is severely low. Having raised four daughters, here are some expenses I don’t think the researchers took into account:

  • Home repairs including, but not limited to, repainting the wall that your 4-year-old “decorated” with nail polish. Or that Slurpee stain in the carpet that will NEVER, EVER come out–no matter how many times you pay a professional carpet cleaner.

(Scrub all you want. Even a nuclear holocaust won’t get rid of this stain.)

  • Every blankety-blankety-blank Happy Meal toy, cereal prize or other worthless trinket that fast-food restaurants/Disney dangle in front of children. This also includes temper-tantrum averting treats at the mall and impulse buys in the grocery store line that they won’t SHUT UP about.
  • School clothes–but not just clothes, the right kind of clothes. The expensive stuff that will only be worn once. This also includes the dozens of shoes you buy, not because your child grew out of them, but because she suddenly doesn’t like the way they feel, or she’ll “forget” one at her friend’s house, or they don’t match ANYTHING she owns.

(“But mo-om. None of these shoes match my skinny jeans.”)

  • Gas for driving them to and from school, work, their friend’s house, the mall, etc.
  • Face products, at least for daughters. If you don’t buy them their own face soap, moisturizer, etc.–yours will suddenly go missing. Strangely enough your daughter will “have no idea where your face mask is.”
  • Yards of fabric to make your teenage daughter a homemade princess costume for Halloween, only to screw it up and have to buy one anyway at the last minute–for twice the cost.
  • Every other Halloween costume. Plus accessories. And fake teeth. And fake blood.

(This Halloween costume costs $3,139. Then you still have to buy candy.)

  • The price of being “Santa’s Helper” during the holiday season. In December, I set up a direct deposit so my paycheck went directly to Toys R Us.
  • Birthday parties that MUST include the cool Disney princess du jour, gift bags for 20 little girls, an elaborate cake that no one will eat and tiaras.

I could go on (and on and on) but you get the idea. So if you’re in the process of child-rearing, save your cash. You’re gonna need it.

To Hell and Back

Remember those field trips in first grade where the bus smelled like urine, the children screamed songs and teachers were frazzled? Well, I just relived that experience when I chaperoned my grandson’s class to the aquarium.

(There was NOT a Loch Ness monster in our aquarium. Feeling gypped.)

Now, my grandson is perfect. That’s all there is to it. He’s handsome. He’s brilliant. He’s funny. And he loves me. However, every other first grader had either downed a high-octane espresso or snorted brown sugar before boarding the bus. Children were bouncing everywhere like Jell-O in an earthquake. The little girl sitting next to me kept screaming “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” I guess she was channeling my thoughts.

When we finally arrived at the aquarium (the longest freakin’ bus ride of my life), chaos ensued. Teachers and parents scrambled to herd kids into the facility while the kids did everything they could to try to get lost immediately. The little girl who had previously been screaming in my ear, made a beeline to the sting ray tank and proceeded to slap the rays as they swam by.

I finally restored a semblance of order by saying the sting rays were a rare kind of killer that ate the flesh of young children. Interestingly enough, that was also true about the penguins, the jellyfish, the starfish, the otters and every other creature we came across. I’ve probably instilled a fear and loathing to all things “ocean.”

(It’s worse than that. He’s dead, Jim.)

And since we live in Utah, which, when I last checked, was hundreds of miles from any ocean, the aquarium lacked the “fun” aquatic creatures like killer whales, great white sharks and the Little Mermaid. Instead, we watched rainbow trout, river otters and shrimp from the Great Salt Lake as they lived in their natural habitat of a glass tank.

Kids get bored easily. Even when we’re pretending to hunt jellyfish. So we toured the facility twice and were just getting ready to watch them feed children to the small sharks when it was time to board the bus to go home. I volunteered to walk, but they insisted I get back on the bus from hell.

More frivolity ensued as the bus riders punched each other, fell off their seats, cried, slapped the people in front of them and threw their shoes out the window. And that was just the teachers. The kids were OUT OF CONTROL. I never remember acting that way on a bus ride. Of course, back then a “bus” was a wagon pulled by oxen. And teachers were still allowed, even encouraged, to beat us.

After I returned to the school, kissed the ground and headed back to my (quiet) car, I thought “That wasn’t so bad.” Hahahahaha! Just kidding. I didn’t think that.

Happy Whoreoween

(This is scarier than any horror movie.)

Helping little girls grow up too quickly, costume companies have sexed-up Halloween costumes for grade school children. Last year, third-grade girls came to my door wearing belly shirts, mini-skirts, fishnet stockings and lipstick. Isn’t there a vice squad created to prevent this? Where’s CSI: SVU when you need them?

Halloween has become “Whoreoween.” Instead of being a regular, innocent cowgirl or princess, little girls are now Raunchy Rodeo Cowgirls with a sexy lasso and spurs, or Peek-A-Boo Princess with fake boobs and high heels. Come on! Our kids are sexified early enough.

(If these little girls come to your door, hand them a coat.)

Adult women and teenage girls have used Whoreoween as an excuse to dress and act like a slut for years and years.  As long as men have eyeballs, you’ll have your naughty nurses and frisky pirate wenches–but seriously, do we need lascivious loan officers, vampy veterinarians or saucy sanitation engineers? Do you really want to see a lusty lunch lady in a push-up bra and stilettos? (If you answered “yes,” there’s a good chance you’re a man.)

But enough is enough when it comes to little kids.

Last year, a fifth grader came to my door, set up a stripper pole on my porch and started to perform. Luckily, it was cold and her bare belly froze to the pole. I called 9-1-1 and went back to watching TV. (I’m just kidding. I gave her some candy first.)

Can we return to innocence? I was Princess Leia when I was 8–and I didn’t stuff my bra. Hell, I didn’t even WEAR a bra. I wasn’t trying to be sexy or seduce the many Han Solos and Luke Skywalkers there were in my class. I just wanted candy, dammit. There was no hidden sexual agenda on Halloween.


Top 5 Reasons I Worry About the Future

Children are our future. Of course, with Congress right now, children are also our present.

Have we done a good job teaching our kids what they need to know to run this world? Here are some potential stumbling blocks that maybe should be addressed before the kids take over:

1. No communication skills. This generation is being raised in cyberspace where things like etiquette, tact and emotion do not exist. Although they can text on their cell phones faster than a Kardashian can shop, children have no ability to actually carry on a face-to-face conversation. Eye contact is nearly extinct. (If you are a child and are not sure what the word “conversation” means, please Google it.)

2. Germaphobes. Back in the day, we drank out of garden hoses, shared soda pop cans and bathed only when necessary.Today’s kids have a world so sterile, it will be a miracle if they’ll be able to reproduce. Hand sanitizer is the new shirtsleeve. We’ve destroyed our children’s immune systems for the next 50 years.

3. No problem-solving skills. Is your child failing math? Well, for heaven’s sake, do his work for him. Is he having trouble with a teacher or another student at school? Take charge and fight the battle for them. I’ve seen parents write reports, put together science projects and even call employers to explain why their child was late for work. Really?! What part of “growing up” is hard to understand?

4. No attention span. This isn’t just for kids. Talk to anyone for a few minutes and you’ll see their eyes darting side to side, their tongue rapidly licking their upper lip and a fine sheen of sweat appear on their forehead–because while they’re talking to you–THEY ARE MOST DEFINITELY MISSING SOMETHING IMPORTANT.

5. Overscheduled. Kids today have more items on their agenda than the First Lady. Tennis lessons, French cooking classes, baseball practice, dance recitals, CPR training and meetings with their agents leave kids exhausted. And then we wonder why our kids are irritable and sleepy.

We’re raising the most globally-aware and socially-consicous generation ever. Let’s not screw it up.

File under: WTF

I just read in the paper about two young “adults” who filed a lawsuit against their mom for emotional distress in the amount of $50,000. First, isn’t that a mom’s job? Second, (you might ask) what constitutes “emotional distress” to these two lovely children?

Here’s your answer. (Did I mention they live with their father–an attorney–in a $1.5 million home?)

During their childhood, their mother:

  • Insisted that her 7-year-old son buckle his seat belt or she’d call the police
  • Haggled over the amount she wanted to spend on a party dress for her daughter
  • Called her daughter at midnight, asking that she return home from a school party
  • Sent the “wrong kind” of birthday card (it didn’t include a check or cash)
  • Failed to send her son a care package when he was in college
  • Wouldn’t take her daughter to a car show

These offenses make me wonder–WTF? If MY daughters decided to sue me for “emotional distress” (which is entirely possible), I would counter-sue and ask for the judge to order the following consequences:

  • They would have to mow my lawn with a PUSH MOWER every Saturday afternoon. In the heat. Without an iPOD.
  • They would have NO access to cell phones or the Internet.
  • They would only be allowed to watch network television.
  • They would have to WALK to school. Every day. Rain or shine.
  • New school clothes would consist of 2 pairs of Levi’s, 5 T-shirts, 1 pair of tennis shoes and 1 pair of dress shoes.

Sound familiar? That’s because that was OUR childhood. Sometime during the last 20 years, entitled, horrible children took over the planet. Should be an interesting future.

Book Reviews: Vanishing Children

Both of the books this week are about young girls that go missing. (I think it must be time for my daughter to go back to school.)Anyway. The first book is “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” by Tom Franklin. In the ’70s, middle-class white boy Larry Ott was friends for a brief time with Silas Jones, the son of a single, black woman. Ott, always considered a little odd, is connected to the disappearance of a young girl.

Fast forward 20 years and Ott is still shunned by the community, even though he was never formally accused of any crime. However, he has made friends with an extremely creepy young man who idolizes Ott. Jones is now a constable in the town and ends up embroiled in another girl’s disappearance. The two men are forced to face their pasts and confront issues that were never resolved.

Really well written and engrossing.

4 stars out of 5

I need to stop reading depressing novels where crazy people kill little children. But how do you resist an opening line like this? “My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded.” Very cool. (Not the exploding grandma, the opening line.)

In Helen Grant’s “The Vanishing of Katharina Linden,” the story is told from the point of view from Pia, a 10-year-old German girl. Her schoolmates are disappearing with no trace, and she’s determined to find out what’s going on–and see if there’s a connection to missing girls from decades ago.

With the help from a friend (the only person her age who associates with her), Pia embarks on a journey where she encounters true evil–which is a hard concept to grasp–even if you’re not 10.

Intertwined with fairy tales and ghost stories, the novel was good and I found it interesting that the author kept telling the story in a small child’s point of view. She didn’t always understand what was happening, or why. Kind of like real life.

3 stars out of 5