Author Archives: Chrissie

Off To A Good Start

Summer is upon us and it is time to fight the yearly battle of the electronics.  This is a fight for which I have no childhood reference.  As a kid, there were Saturday morning cartoons but that was pretty much it.  By noon, your only choices were infomercials or old black and white movies.  No streaming services, no endless cable channels, no YouTube content.  Whether you wanted it or not, you had to find something else to do other than veg out in front of a screen.  So I don’t remember arguing with my parents over the appropriate amount of screen time.  I was never ordered to unglue myself from my phone and get outside.  I do remember being bored and wandering around the neighborhood or setting up a tent and binge reading library books.  I remember fighting with my sister  and inventing wildly elaborate games together.  Summer was a slow and unsupervised time when I was a kid.  Oh how times have changed.

Given a chance, my kids would want to spend every minute of summer online.  Either playing video games, streaming shows, or scrolling through Instagram and Snapchat feeds.  Books? Outside? Games?  Um, no thanks.  Super boring.  Not interested.  But as a parent we are constantly being lectured to “restrict screen time.”  And so the summer compromising begins.  I’ve tried charts and “earning” time, I’ve tried brides and cajoling.  Ever method pretty much fails eventually and  I end up with kids sneaking their electronics and trying to hide from me all summer long.  It isn’t pretty.

So this year, we’re trying something a little new.  Part binge.  Part purge.  From the moment they wake up until lunch time, they are free to do whatever they want.  No time restrictions.  They can binge their little online addicted hearts out.  But after lunch, they are cut off.  Nothing but boredom and summer doldrums for the afternoon.  The usual mopping and plaintive laments of being “literally bored to death” occurs but I can counter with 1. You are not actually dead so stop misusing the term “literally” and 2. You had all morning to gorge so I feel no sympathy for you.  And the results?  Amazing.

Yesterday, Leina decided to make her very own room escape for the family.  She spent the afternoon devising clues, codes, and a backstory for us.  It was awesome and fun and just the perfect way to while away a long summer afternoon.  Kulia grabbed a book she had been meaning to read and headed outside.  She lolled on the lounger, lay in the grass, moved back to the shade and just read and read and read.   It warmed my maternal heart to see her out there.  And of course, I have a stack of games just dying to be played.  Now, after lunch, I have two willing victims wandering about the downstairs.   Muwahahahaha.

It is early days, but I’m hopefully we have finally achieved the summer electronic compromise of my dreams.  Only time will tell, but so far, the outlook is good.


Internal Climate Change

The Persistence of Memory By Salvador Dali. Image taken from, Fair use,

I went down to the school to teach an art class on Salvador Dali to a group of 3rd graders.  Of course, I showed them his well known painting with the melting clocks.  To us old folks, the idea of time slipping away is something of which we are very cognizant.  But I couldn’t help but wonder what a group of eight year olds would make of the idea of time slowly running out.

“Remember when school first started?” I asked them.  “Bringing in your supplies, meeting your teacher, learning who you were going to sit by. Does that seem like a long time ago?”  Heads nodded and I saw their eyes drift as they looked back to the start of they year.

One little girl in the back cocked her head to the side and commented, “Yeah, but it also seems like just yesterday.”  More nods of agreement floated across the room.

“That’s so weird,” said a little boy in front, “it’s like long ago but also just over.  I think I get the clocks.”  That crazy sense of the past being right there next to you is present even when young I guess.  The end of Kindergarten sits snuggled up right next to the end of 6th grade in my mind.  My girls are equally tiny little things and then almost grown women.  And trying to wrap my head around how long it has been and how quickly it has flown is almost impossible.

As the countdown to summer draws to a rapid close, I can’t help but wonder where did the elementary years go?  How are we suddenly almost finished with middle school?  I’m worried that my clocks are melting at an alarming rate.  Climate change on an internal scale?  Is that a thing?  Lets hope not…..

Picking the Right Fruit

I have reached that part of parenting where the waters have become murky.  The low hanging fruit has been successfully plucked and what is left requires strategy to reach.  My girls can sleep through the night, use the potty, recite their address and phone number, and don’t bite (for the most part).  Considering they are now in middle school, these accomplishments may seem minor.  But trust me, at the time they were considered herculean tasks of extreme parenting.  Little did I know that even more daunting hurdles lay before us.  Now that I have successfully molded their external behaviors, I am left with the frightening task of working on their internal ones.

I have to teach them to be a good person.

Oh Lordy.  This fruit sits so high on the tree.  How do I even begin to reach it?  I thought I was doing well until Jada died.  Reflecting on her life got me thinking that maybe I’ve been aiming for the wrong fruit all along.

The joke in our house is that anything less than an “A” is a fail.  There is no such thing as optional  “extra credit”.  And if a McLaughlin commits to something, there is no quitting half way through when things get tough.  Work hard.  Strive for more than average.  Follow through.  What delicious fruit, right?  Good grade.  Good education.  Good job.  Isn’t that the dream all parents have for their children?  Be someone.  Get out of your small pond and take over the next size up.

And yet.  Is that really true?  Is greatness the answer?  Or is it maybe something much smaller and less flashy? Jada’s pond was tiny.  Our house, the mean streets of Sherwood, and whoever came to visit.  She didn’t really own much.  Two dog beds, a food bowl and a stream of chew toys that never lasted too long.  By conventional standards she was nothing.  Didn’t win a dog show, not certified by the AKC, never had a role on TV where she rescued someone from a well or rampaging cougar.  And yet, she made us whole. You want to lie on the sofa and binge watch Bosch?  Sounds great, I’m in.  Oh hello!  Feeling a bit peckish are we?  Well, let me accompany you to the kitchen and see what we can find.  Are you heading for the door?  Can I come?  Can I?  Can I?

Her accomplishments were much more subtle but, I would argue, just as amazing.  A companion, a happy presence, a partner in crime.  Would her life have been better if she had been “successful”?  If I had entered her in dog shows, driven her to events, groomed her to look perfect?  I doubt it.  Actually, I have no doubt.  I know.  Being a loving presence in our lives was the most powerful thing she could have done.  It was her shining accomplishment.  And if I can raise my girls to be as adventurous, companionable and joyful as she was, then I think I will have done well.  Lets aim for those fruits, shall we?



Maybe It’s Time

I like to pride myself on being quick on the draw.  I can read the signs, pick up a quick wink, tell which way the wind is blowing.  But this time, I think I was a bit dense really.  It took the universe much longer than normal to enlighten me.  In the span of about a week, I experienced the following signs…..

  1. Kulia had an assignment which required her to bring in a story about her as a baby.  Easy enough.  I just pulled up my good old blog and began surfing.  And here was my first epiphany.  I remembered the “big” stories.  Celebrations, holidays, and traveling were still in the old memory banks.  It was nice to read about these events but since I still remembered them, it wasn’t anything miraculous.  What I had forgotten was the mundane, the day to day grind, those small moments of simple bliss.  The posts about our daily routine and interactions fascinated me.  As soon as I read those old posts, the memories came flooding back.  Memories I didn’t even know I had forgotten.
  2. Two days later, Uncle Dan asked if I was still writing and if I missed it.  He, too, had noticed that it’s the little simple moments that get lost in time.  They can be pinned down and preserved but if you aren’t careful they can also slid away.  I admitted that I had stopped journaling.  Mostly, I just take a picture with my phone if I want to remember something.  I have images now but no stories.
  3. A week later, Jada died.  Again, I turned to this blog looking for lost memories about her.  There are a few but because I stopped writing, there aren’t many.  I know that time will rob me of her presence eventually.  Right now, she is my phantom limb.  I still glance down in the kitchen to make sure I don’t stumble over her as I cook.  I check before I scoot my chair back so I don’t hit her.  I pause to listen for her skritchy claws at the bottom of the stairs.  Eventually, I will unlearn all these behaviors and they will fade into forgotten dust.  But the real regret is that I didn’t capture them here while I could.

So OK universe.  I get it.  Stop hurting me.  I understand that this – right now – is a moment of great importance but also a moment that will fade to nothing.  That the “bigs” will live on in my photo roll but the “littles” have an awesome ephemeral power too.  I see that someday future me will need these small moments that I capture now.  She will relish them and thank me for taking the time to preserve all the uneventful, boring, useless chatter.  That any moment is worth remembering, not just the big stuff.  I need more than the images in my iCloud.  I need to be able to hear my voice talking to me from the past as well.

So hello blog.  How ya been?  Me?  I’ve been better but I think that’s a story for tomorrow.

Kulia had a writer come to her class to teach poetry. This is what she brought home….

I know my classroom.
The smell of fresh paper,
The smell of lead on a pencil,
The smell of jolly ranchers.

I know my classroom.
The sound of a pencil moving on paper,
The sound of books opening and closing,
Sneakers squeaking.

I know my classroom.
“Turn to page five,”
“Time for Mrs. Tricky!”
“Line up!”

I know my classroom.

Dinner Love

Kulia: Mom, I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?

Me: Um, I don’t know. How about we go to Red Robin?

Kulia: Yeah! We are saved from the horrible awful things you make!

Me: (sob)