Thursday, December 24, 2015

New Look

"Big Kid, how do you want your hair cut?"

"Well, I don't know how to say this, but like a young Joseph Stalin. Let me pull up a picture."

"Wow. Who knew he was so handsome?" 

"Yes, but how do I tell her I want a dictator's hair?"

So many dictator jokes, guys, but it was the wrong audience.

Friday, December 18, 2015


Some yoga friends recently arranged to have a screening of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, an independent animated film by Selma Hayek. The kids were really looking forward to it and on the day we were going, little kid asked what it was about. 

"You know, I'm not 100% sure. I think it is actually based on an old book, a form of poetry, probably something middle eastern."

He looked confused. "Well, that is strange."

"Yes, it should be interesting to see how they turn something like that into a movie."

"It will probably be funny. A rhyming movie about a bank heist sounds funny."

"A bank heist?"

"Or whatever -- the robbery or crime or whatever."

"I don't think there is one."

"Then why is it called The Profit?"

"Oh -- oh, it's not. P-r-o-p-h-e-t. Like a messenger from God."

He looked crestfallen. "Really? Are you being serious right now?"

"Yes, hon, this movie will almost definitely not have a bank heist. I also don't know that it will rhyme."

"Well, I'm not going to lie, that is disappointing. I was really excited."

He ended up liking it more than any of us, although I was really moved by some of the incredible combinations of words.

(Spoiler alert to provide context for the reading: 

He dies. That's not a huge shocker though. The end of the book/movie was gorgeous and I went home and looked up the words I remembered immediately and still read it to myself occasionally.)

It had its slow points, though, and I do think a bank heist may have helped move things along.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Uncommon Goods: Lazy Ashley's Lazy Susan

My favorite catalog recently contacted me and asked if I would like to review one of their products. I've been getting a ton of product review requests lately and although it's (sometimes) fun for me, I know it's (sometimes) boring for you. Between that and being overwhelmed by stuff in my small house, I've been ignoring a lot of these lately (and then feeling guilty about it, because that's how I roll.)

But it's as if Uncommon Goods got up out of my mailbox and walked to my front door and said, "You know how you dog ear at least 30% of my pages for the magical future day where you have unlimited cash to buy things for yourself? Well, you have earned one of those items through your tireless optimism and endless appreciation of my products. And also because you're so smart and pretty."

It was exciting. They are my go-to place for wedding and baby gifts (this wishing ball and this Mysterio baby shirt are old favorites) but I've never bought anything for myself. For a moment, I thought I should use this as an opportunity to get a Christmas gift for someone else but luckily that moment passed quickly.

I went through the links and was excited to see this arcade spinner lazy susan that caught my eye in an earlier catalog issue. I showed Mr. Ashley and he seemed...confused. He pointed out jewelry and some beautiful glasses and I agreed that all of those things were very nice.

I showed a friend and we spent an hour oohing and ahhing over possibilities with a bunch of patchwork sari items coming in high on our lists. When I showed her the lazy susan, she didn't seem to fully share my enthusiasm.

I couldn't figure out why I wanted it so badly -- we don't really serve meals this way or have issues reaching things on the table. I didn't know where I would store it when not in use. I kept telling myself that this was a strange choice out of all of these beautiful, luxurious, or more practical options.

So I got it. I blame a childhood full of Wheel of Fortune and that big spinner thing on Price is Right.

And I love it.

(Pretend my chairs are chalk painted blue since I'm doing that this weekend.)

I thought I was super clever and original because I was going to make up games with mine (mostly to divide up chores) and it already came with a sheet suggesting games. Also, I thought the price was a result of its uniqueness versus its quality and I was wrong. It's real wood, with the grain showing through the design, and it rolls around in a really secure, expensive-feeling way. Like maybe ball bearings are involved? Or maybe I just wanted to say ball bearings. It is very satisfying to spin, if you're into life's little joys like that.

We used it for taco night and the kids were completely delighted.

"I love this lazy thingy!" little kid said.

"I do too." I answered.

"Do you love it more than me?"

He does this every single time I admit to liking anything. He once got competitive with our last dog over who had the softer nose when I made a comment about Murphy's velvety face. The dog is long dead and sometimes little kid will still randomly ask me if I think his nose is soft.


"You love the taco wheel more than me?"

"Well, I've just met it but...I really do love it."

"But not more than me."

"I'm just saying. You've never served me taco ingredients like this."

"But you don't love it more than me."

"I don't love it more than you, little kid."

But sometimes I like it more than all of my family members -- it never talks back or leaves things on the bathroom floor or tells long stories about video games or work.

I was also happy to learn that Uncommon Goods isn't run by jerks; the lowest paid seasonal worker starts at 50% over minimum wage, half of what they sell is handmade, most is made in the U.S.A, and one-third of their products are recycled or up cycled. I always want to support companies that don't suck and sometimes it's unfortunately hard to do.

So if you're still looking for interesting Christmas gifts, check here for men, here for women, or here for general gift ideas. There's still time to choose economy shipping if you order by December 17th, and other options available if not.

Or just get something for yourself, I highly recommend it. At least get the catalog so you can make dog-eared wish lists of your own.

Editorial note: This is an ad. Uncommon Goods gave me that awesome Wheel of Fun in exchange for this post, but the thoughts and opinions are real and my own. I honestly do like that lazy susan more than real people some days.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wish You a Merry Netflix (Giveaway)

Every month you listen to me talk about how I don't really mostly watch true crime shows on Netflix, and then I try to justify how some of the true crime shows I watch aren't really true crime shows.

This month I'm really not watching true crime shows because Mr. Ashley is obsessed with house makeover shows like Fixer Upper and I've been watching cooking shows, with a British baking show being my most recent favorite; both interesting choices since he rarely fixes anything and I rarely bake anything. There are hardly any murders going on but sometimes I think those unfortunate souls considering homes with less than Williams Sonoma showroom-worthy kitchens might die of heartache on the spot.

Anyway, Netflix is going to reward (one of) you for your patience with my depressing viewing habits by giving you 6 months of free Netflix. Not only is this the perfect gift from Netflix to me to you, you could also re-gift this gift to a teacher or hairdresser or just keep it for yourself because it's the gift that keeps on giving.

Here's why:

1. You don't have to wear pants to give or get this gift.
2. You can say you're really into marathons and not be lying.
3. Sex scenes in the Tudors. Just saying.
4. No return lines with pissy retail employees -- even if you already have Netflix, you can just have more Netflix.
5. It's like a yoga retreat but no yoga and no real inspiration, just commitment to the practice of watching something you like. So not really like a yoga retreat at all, but kind of.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Enter to win before 10pm EST on 12/17!

Thanks to all who entered! Our winner is an Ashley H in MN and she has been contacted via email. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Art of Being Bold

When SheKnows Media invited me to Art Basel to cover an event at the Vanity Fair Social Club, I was instantly intrigued but thought maybe there had been a mistake and they didn’t actually mean me.

Attending Art Basel in Miami Beach has been a long-time dream of mine. It's a world famous art fair that attracts celebrities and media and rich people and other oddballs from all over. I had a brief love affair with Miami Beach in my late teens/early 20s and always envisioned this glamorous, sunny, culture-filled weekend as the grown-up version of my exotic life. 

In case you hadn't guessed, that didn't end up being the grown-up version of my life. I had kids and a messy house and a lack of abundance in my bank account instead.

I thought maybe it just wasn’t meant to be this year again either. I reached out to a few friends and family members, mostly looking to justify how impossibly difficult it would all be, and each and every one said that I had to go and offered to help however they could. 

I messaged a former co-worker and teammate of mine who lived over there, someone I had never met in person and hadn't worked with for long but who I really liked, and she said her mother-in-law just moved out of a condo and that I could stay in it. It was within walking distance of everywhere I needed to be. This seemed like an unbelievable stroke of serendipity. 

But I would need to buy a new outfit…and then I found a dress for $12 at an upscale consignment store. It was the first one I tried on. Could I wear a $12 dress to a Vanity Fair event, though? I mean, the plan was not to tell anyone it was a $12 dress but now I'm telling the whole internet so I kind of blew that.

I finally ran out of excuses not to go, so I went. 

It was pouring the whole way over and I kept wondering if I would die in Miami traffic and then I said, "Ashley, you have been driving for 21 years, you will be fine, shut the hell up." Realizing that my driver's license is old enough to drink was a sobering thought. (I didn’t die.)

I finally arrived and I met my beautiful new friend. It felt like we had known each other forever and we stood there chattering until her husband had to insist that it was time to go because we wouldn't have parted willingly any time soon. 

Guys, this was my view: 

My plan had been to explore the city alone to enjoy the people watching but I ended up getting a bottle of wine and staying in instead; watching yacht parties in the bay and the cars crossing the bridge.  It was the most exciting night I’ve had in a long time — sitting there by myself, thinking or not, feeling like a tiny part of something bigger instead of in on the action. 

While I was there, I realized that I was in the same building I had stayed in for my childhood best friend’s bachelorette party and it seemed like maybe I was the sort of grown-up I wanted to be after all. Kind of. 

The next day I had an Uber driver take me to my event. He asked what I did for a living and when I explained that I was a writer, he insisted that I would make a great anchorwoman. I debated him on this for a minute but he was so certain that I could be excellent with a little practice that I thanked him for his confidence in me. 

After getting his life story, I asked if he had plans to return to Jamaica and he said that his good friend just received a license to grow medical marijuana and they were going to be partners. 

I told him that his life sounded exciting and he told me that my life sounded exciting and we wished each other luck on our exciting lives before parting ways. 

When I arrived at the Wolfsonian, I wanted to take a picture of the fancy Vanity Fair doors but didn’t want to look like a total weirdo so I strolled on in like I always hang out at places like this. 

I took one as I was leaving.

After getting checked in, I went to the bathroom and realized the rainy Miami humidity had done its own part in making me look like a weirdo. 

I had my picture taken at a fun little photo wall and once I finished, a guy in a suit pulled me aside. “Ma’am, may I speak with you for a minute?” 

I thought they had checked my Twitter and realized that I was a mommy blogger who had dyed her hands blue two days before and were planning to escort me out.

“Can we take a few shots of you over here?” 

“Shots of me?” I asked, not understanding. 

“Just real quick?” 

I thought it was their social media team and reluctantly obliged, and then there was a whole light and camera set up and they took a lot of pictures of me trying on old-fashioned hats. 

I don’t know, maybe they were getting some clear photos for the “no admittance” list next time, but there was another girl with me and she looked legit, so I’m still not sure what was going on. When I was leaving I asked what it was for and the photographer casually replied that it was for Vanity Fair, and then I needed two mimosas. 

In groups of four they took us into an IMAX-like screen area with a Lincoln MKX parked inside to show off the Revel speakers along with a visual show and it felt like a Disney World ride (on drugs). 

The panel of speakers I was there to hear included Jory Des Jardins, co-founder of BlogHer, Jessica Teves, editor of Stylecaster, and Yael Alkalay from Red Flower, and was called Style (and Power) to the People. This inadvertently ended up being the luckiest part of my weekend. 

I struggle all of the time about what the heck it is we are doing here (and by here, I mean Ashley Quite Frankly, and by we I mean you). I feel guilty for not being more professional or “building my brand” or looking for ways to monetize or even posting more regularly. Then I remember that I started this for fun and that it's more for me and my family than the rest of the world. It’s strange enough to share our lives with you — it would be even weirder to think of our family as a brand.

I’m a writer. I do that here for fun (or therapy) and elsewhere for work. I see the world through words, and when I’m here, I’m writing my own story. If something fits in along the way (I’m looking at you, Netflix), or a professional opportunity arises as a result, great! But I have this one little corner of the world where I get to tell my own story and I’m going to do it in my own unpolished way, unapologetically, in my own voice.

Anyway, I realized all of that after the panel. They were discussing the importance of authenticity, story-telling, and approachability. It made me realize there was value in my messy life and my willingness to admit it — that the kind of people I would like to write for won’t necessarily exclude me for my $12 dress and stained blue hands. I felt better for not having, or wanting, 500,000 followers and a creative director.

That probably wasn’t the point of the panel, but you know how I have a tendency to make everything about me. 

Later I had my makeup done by Sisley and as I was finishing up (with a mountain of swag, which made me feel like a movie star), I got a text from a friend lamenting the fact that her camping trip was canceled and she could have come with me after all. 

“Come now!” I urged her. 

She said it would be late and she had nothing to wear and it would be expensive and that there was the driving and the tolls. 

“When else will you have the opportunity? #BeBold,” I texted back in our inspirational yoga hashtag speak, after breaking down the limited costs. I didn’t think she would come. This was very last minute and she has 17 kids (or 4, same difference.) 

“I’m leaving in 15 minutes,” she answered. 

And she did. We went to the actual Art Basel, which was 500,000 square feet, and we had deep conversations and laughed at penis statues and high-fived about how bold we were and somehow avoided any hint of a stabbing that happened in the building at that time. 

We also ate at a pizza place, told an Uber driver/aviation mechanic student that his mom must be proud of him, drank wine and had chocolate from Nespresso and talked until late in the night on the balcony while watching the city lights flash.

We had so much fun trying on this other life where we were just us for the sake of being us, no kids attached.

The next day we went to IKEA and I only spent $22; one of my life’s greatest accomplishments. 

Although not as wild and exciting as my old Miami days, it was the perfect, almost glamorous weekend of being the kind of adult that I want to be. 

(Except for the bad hair.) 

Thursday, December 10, 2015


From little kid's backpack:

What I'm Thankful For

I'm thankful for myself, freedom, and my family. What are you thankful for? I'm thankful for my family because they help me with school and they make me joyful because they tell funny jokes. The reason I'm thankful for freedom is because it makes most of us happy. Also is one step closer to peace. I'm thankful for myself because I'm happy how I am. Also I love myself. As a result that's why I'm thankful. For myself, freedom and my family.

--age 9. 

The world needs more of that. 

May we all value family, freedom, and ourselves!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Just 5 More Minutes: Netflix Bedtime Strategy

My kids are skilled in bedtime delay tactics.

It's a battle I've recently realized I'm going to lose -- they have played a long, cunning, collaborative game of avoiding my authority when it comes to going to bed and they have outwitted and outlasted me at every turn. Now that they're 9 and 12 I feel like I don't really have the time to gain any ground on this particular parenting battleground, so I've pretty much resigned myself to this fate of quiet time starting later than I'd like. 

Their favorite tactic is to send one out for another goodnight hug or kiss because what monster would deny her precious offspring a second helping of love? If the one is successful, the other sneaks out too. Yes, yes, it's very sweet, it is but I am available ALL DAY LONG for this kind of affection and there's already a goodnight routine in place. If not wanting to do the nighttime routine twice daily makes me a bad mom, add it to the list. Unfortunately, this one works 85% of the time due to the guilt. 

Also, little kid has the gall to request a new tuck-in since his old tuck-in was disrupted when he got out of bed uninvited. He doesn't see how this isn't really our problem but it's easier to just do it. They have worn me down with the constant out-of-bed attacks and I surrender almost immediately these days.

Strategic pooping also has a solid history of effectiveness. We've had a name for this since Big Kid was four, so it's not a new concept. I don't know if they have actually trained their bodies to comply like bedtime avoiding ninjas or if they are taking advantage of the fact that we can't really insist that they not do this but this one works every time and is deployed 2-3 times a week. 

We came to a peaceful negotiation at one point where they were allowed to stay up an extra half an hour if they were reading. We felt really smug about this and our kids have been really dedicated readers ever since, but the fact of the matter is that they have slowly combined this deal with their old tactics and now bedtime is even later. 

Netflix came up with the brilliant idea of Dinotrux 5 Minute Favorites so that you can promise one more show before bed and really mean it, but don't mention the 5 minute part because they'll catch on to your tricks and you'll be watching 10 episodes of Dinotrux because negotiating at night time is hard. 

It's too late for me because my kids are too skilled and I have been defeated.

*I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and was not compensated for this post or these opinions (but sometimes they send me cool stuff, like Popples and Care Bears, and I do love that.) I just want to help moms marching on the same dusty road while also helping Netflix help those moms, and I think there should be more of a general awareness that strategic pooping is a thing. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Out of Left Field Trips

Part of the transition to homeschooling has been the promise of more field trips and real world educational opportunities. As with everything in life, this has been easier said than done. All of that free time and boredom I was worrying about has yet to surface. 

Our first field trip was to the Crystal River Archeological Park. It was near an area we had visited over summer vacation so I decided to make it a mini-vacation with an overnight at a hotel and some fun before the organized field trip the next day. Big Kid loves freshwater springs and the area has several of them so we decided to enjoy a quick tubing trip. 

Then we found out that tubing isn't allowed off season and October isn't their season, 90 degrees or not. 

We settled on the waterpark at Weeki Wachee Springs. 

Then we found out that the waterpark is closed in October. 

The boys had been excited about a haunted corn maze advertised on the hotel's event calendar. 

Then we found out that the maze was the previous night and the date was wrong. 

Understandably, Big Kid was frustrated about this series of frustrating events. 

I was too. We were supposed to be celebrating and all stress-free together. I was in a very small area far away from home and nothing was going right.

(little kid was rolling with the punches, as always. He was just glad to be missing school the next day.) 

As I tried to think of what to offer as an alternative, Big Kid walked up to me in the hotel room and gave me a big hug -- the good kind, where he leans in and obviously needs the hug. 

"Mom? I'm sorry for being such an asshole." I heard him say. 

I was struck by his surprising amount of self-awareness before I realized he's not allowed to say asshole, even if it's about himself and he is being one. 

"Big Kid!! You're not allowed to say that!" I said. "And you haven't been that bad."

"Not allowed to say what? What do you think I said?" He asked. 

His obvious confusion made me hesitate to answer. "What did you say?" 

"I'm sorry for being such a hassle?" As I started laughing, he realized what I thought he said and joined me. 

We ended up wandering around Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where the boys fell in love with a hippo who was an honorary Florida citizen, we ate at a delicious dive bar/steak place, and after getting our fill at the archeological park the next day, we left the field trip early and went to Weeki Wachee Springs where we were allowed to play in their freezing cold spring (sans waterpark) and watch their roadside attraction mermaid show before driving home. It was weird and wonderful. 

Hanging out with sea cows and these two in Homosassa.

A photo posted by Ashley McCann (@ashleyquitefrankly) on

And a stop at Weeki Wachee. No mermaid sightings yet. This place is super weird though.

A photo posted by Ashley McCann (@ashleyquitefrankly) on

Our second field trip involved a visit to a working dairy farm and I GOT TO BOTTLE FEED BABY COWS. I mean, they got to bottle feed baby cows. This is all about the children and their education. Baby cows mean business when they eat, though, I bet the mama cows prefer the milking machines. I was incredibly impressed by the cleanliness and efficiency of the whole operation. 

So much fun at @dakindairyfarms today! We love their cows and how they treat them.

A photo posted by Ashley McCann (@ashleyquitefrankly) on

And then Big Kid had to catch up on homeschool (yes, catching up is a thing with virtual school) and I had to catch up on work (yes, catching up is a thing with freelancing) and little kid had to catch up on regular school, so big field trips are on temporary hiatus until next semester. 

Hopefully everyone will be less of a...hassle after the holidays.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Big Move

Remember the whole mid-life crisis thing I was planning?

(Guys, you know my commitment to questionable ideas -- they are my third favorite thing. Cats and Netflix being first and second.)

Well, after spending weeks researching a small island off of the coast of Nicaragua, analyzing how long we could live there on our savings, determining if the wi-fi signal was strong enough for me to work and discussing it all at length with a stranger I met who lived there for 8 years, I quit my job and took Big Kid out of school.

Not to move to Nicaragua though, I'm going to have to save that for my three-quarters life crisis because I can't figure out how to get two cats, a dog, a hedgehog and a box turtle to an island in another country and I think I should at least visit before attempting it.

(I know that's disappointing. I might have finally been book-worthy.)

Anyway, Big Kid was miserable in school -- beyond your normal tween misery. I'm not talking about the average drama of eye rolling and whining in the mornings, I'm speaking of a defeated sense of sorrow; of waking up with tears in his eyes and retreating more and more into quiet despair.

At first we tried to fix him. We've had similar issues in the past, always around school. He has friends, things seemed fine, just freaking hated school. We couldn't really figure out what was wrong, other than school.

We also tried to fix school. We reached out to teachers, guidance counselors and administration and were met with a bland indifference. They couldn't make any changes because it wasn't allowed or because they would have to do so for everyone.

No single issue was a big deal, I don't have some dramatic tale of injustice. We just couldn't fix anything and neither could they.

Then one day I saw this video about a boy who just wants to be happy. Later that same day I saw on the news that a middle schooler had been arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school. I realized that in the eyes of the adults present, a middle schooler would be more likely to bring a bomb than a homemade clock to the classroom. I looked at Mr. Ashley and said, "Holy shit, it's not him. There's nothing wrong with him. He's just in the wrong place."

I consulted my village and found two camps: the people who acted like we were giving up and the people who urged me to do something and cheered me on. Counselors, teachers, moms, and wise women all told me to trust my gut and relayed their own experiences of feeling marginalized or hopeless and helpless and how that affected who they became. The skeptics either seemed doubtful about my endurance or abilities (don't blame them) or worried that we were setting him up for a life of entitlement.

The truth is: real life isn't like middle school. It doesn't have to be.

I want him to be happy. I want him to feel heard.  I want him to want to learn. I want him to have his own voice. I want him to know his creativity is valuable and powerful and a force to be nurtured. I want him to recognize when a situation isn't right for who he is as an individual and to honor that.

They couldn't help him because then they'd have to help them all. He is my all.

I found myself walking into his room to wake him up on the first day of homeschool and then realized that I didn't have to. I stood in the doorway and mourned the loss of my alone time for a moment as I watched him sleep and then thought, "Genie, you're free," like the end of Aladdin. It all felt a little like giving up my last wish; bittersweet but filled with boat loads of hope.

So he is doing Florida Virtual School (which is actually still public school, making me a bit of an outcast in the homeschool world) and my plan was to continue working. I do freelance writing and marketing and was the digital media manager for a chain of yoga studios. I made my own hours, worked from home, and had what I thought was a pretty good system in place. I finally had everything I thought I wanted professionally -- a flexible schedule, steady freelance work, regular pay in a position I liked, and I spent my days writing about things I truly believe change people's lives. My relationship with the yoga studio changed my world and my co-workers were some of my truest friends.

And yet I quickly found myself miserable. I thought this might be because I'm an ungrateful asshole. I would do the math and tell myself that 20-30 hours of work and 10-15 hours of freelance writing a week is doable and that I'm lucky to have it. I would remind myself that this is what I wanted. I would come up with new ways to carve time out of the middle of the day so I could actually help Big Kid. I would get so mad at myself for feeling like I was doing a half-assed job at everything.

And one day Big Kid said, "Maybe your job is like my old school -- even if the people are great and the work is fine, maybe it's just not right for you right now," and that landed so hard in me that my breath caught in my throat for a minute.

There I was evangelizing to him and the whole rest of the world about finding happiness and feeling empowered and believing in yourself and changing your perspective and I was completely unwilling to do those things for myself. 

So I resigned. It was as easy and as difficult as that. Again, it was bittersweet and filled with boat loads of hope.

One day after I gave my notice, one of my bosses and I were working together, sitting in an empty studio like we had so many times before. I had just been thinking about how I would miss that -- lounging on that floor barefoot for business meetings. She was lamenting about how she would miss my help and when she finished I said, "You know, this is really scary for me too."

She looked at me and asked, "What's the worst that could happen?"

I considered that for a moment -- maybe I would do a shitty job at homeschooling, maybe my relationship with Big Kid would suffer, maybe I would lose my place professionally or lose the connection with my yoga friends...and I knew none of that would happen.

"Well...maybe I'll be bored?" I answered, feeling great relief to realize what was actually at risk.

She shrugged. "Then you can come back. We'll be here."

They'll be there.

Everything that really matters will always still be there.

On the second day of homeschooling, Big Kid looked me in the eye and said, "Mom, thanks for going through all this trouble, and for understanding and for listening to me and making it better," and there he was again -- the actual him, with the spark of life that makes him him.

He's been homeschooled for six weeks now and he's happy.

I've been doing my thing for three weeks now and I'm happy.

So far the only thing missing is the boredom I so feared, but there's time for that.

And that's the story of my way-less-exciting-than-Nicaragua midlife crisis. I don't know if it will be our happily ever after but it's our happily right now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Latency

"Mom, do you think there are any two-headed people where one head is a boy and the other is a girl?" little kid asked.

"Uh, I don't know. I guess in conjoined twins it may be possible, but I don't know specifically about having two heads and one body and that happening."

"It would make dating nearly impossible! Unless one was gay or one was a latency."

"A latency?"

"A Linksys? A Lextancy? Expectancy? No...that's not it. You know what I mean. Anyway, how would they handle the whole nipple thing?"

"Wh-what nipple thing?"

"Would they have to wear a shirt in public or not? It's really hard to say without knowing what the boob situation would be."

"Right. It might be best to just mind your business on this one."

Saturday, October 17, 2015


"Mom, I have something to tell you," Big Kid announced yesterday.


"I identify as a goose."

"A goose?"


"Hmm. Wow. How long have you felt this way?"

"I've always known."

"Well, you know that I've always said that I will love you no matter what, right?"

He nodded.

"But I hate geese so this is a problem. Do you see yourself as a golden goose? Or the scary, flappy kind that poops everywhere and will steal a sandwich right out of your hand?"

"The scary, flappy, sandwich-stealing kind."

"Ugh. I had noticed the sandwich-stealing thing. I mean, I'll work on it -- I have no real valid reason to hate geese anyway so maybe it can be a life lesson for me. I just don't see why you can't be a cat or something less like a goose. "

"Yeah, but if you're a goose, you're a goose."

"Right. That's kind of the whole problem with being a goose -- the goose part. But it's fine."

Later his brother was telling an unrelated story about ducks and he interrupted and said, "Excuse me but as a goose, ducks are practically my cousins. CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE!"

I almost died laughing. I am so grateful that I am his mother goose.

Friday, October 16, 2015


I'm in my bedroom with the laptop because it's late afternoon on Friday and I am done. DONE. D-O-N-E.

The kids started fighting over which one of them should be on the computer about an hour ago so I intervened and thought I straightened it out. The fight continued though and I retreated.

Some people would call that giving up but I call it teaching independent conflict management. Real world life lessons, people.

At some point the fighting turned into rambunctious play fighting, which is still annoying but less so and it was then that I overheard: "Dude, don’t give mom more material for her blog. That's what's about to happen. Do you WANT the world to know about this? I’m telling you to put some pants on and chill out before you end up embarrassing the whole internet. "

I'm intrigued. But still not enough to go out there and investigate.

Sorry internet.

But also, thank you for being a positive parenting influence. We're doing good work here.

 (Someone just said they can't breathe which pretty much means I have to go out there, although I am sure he can breathe since he's also yelling.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Special Like Everyone Else

I saw this sweet story about a college kid who offered comfort to a man with special needs.

I don't know what I would have done in a similar situation -- felt awkward at best, maybe scared. Would I have held his hand? Would I have offered my shoulder? I wish I could say, but I know what little kid would have done.

At 9, little kid loves people. All of them. He strolled through the halls at orientation giving casual high fives, calling everyone by name, giving passing teachers a friendly head nod and a knowing look.

He was nominated for student council and wants to organize a club for new and/or lonely kids where they could play games and make new friends and learn the intricacies of the game Four Square, a huge part of their school's culture and social scene.

He is borderline obsessed with new students who can't speak English and goes out of his way to befriend them and learn words from their language while teaching them words from ours. I get updates on their progress daily.

It's all so easy for him.

He has a classroom nemesis whose questionable behavior fascinates him and was outraged when he caught her making fun of the special needs class. She was mocking their behavior and he told her that she had needed help when she was a baby, and they do too; that it's not their fault and they are just like everyone else.

"You have to do something!" Big Kid exclaimed as the story was retold. "She can NOT behave that way, you MUST get an adult involved next time so she can learn!"

"I am working on her! The adults know but it's the kids who need to show her it's not cool with us!"

He came home one day and told me he had encountered a child having an absolute meltdown in the office -- kicking, cursing, physically struggling against his mom and the vice principal who were trying to usher him out of the lobby.

He saw little kid and stopped and said, "I'm not leaving! I want a hug from him!!"

"What did you do?" I asked, intrigued and a little nervous. I don't know that I would want to hug a kicking, screaming, cursing stranger.

"I asked his mom if I could give him a hug and she said yes, so I did. And, you know, it was a really good hug. I was pretty surprised. It made him happy and he went home, and I was happy since it was a nice hug."

It made me happy too.

He came home yesterday and said, "Mom, you know how my friends and I treat the kids from the special needs class just like everyone else?"

I nodded.

"Well, today one of them slipped the bird! Just like that, slipped someone the bird!! I had to tell a teacher since I would do that for everyone else and she didn't seem surprised. He must have been a regular bird-slipper."

So I know what little kid would have done on the bus that day. He would have offered his hand, his shoulder, a hug.

Unless someone slipped him a bird, then they would have been reported.

Just like everyone else.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Note to Self

I went to yoga today.

The teacher was one of the beautiful, deep, free-spirit types; she was wearing a loud navy blue shirt with a large pink floral print and leopard print leggings.

"So...the outfit," she said, acknowledging her unconventional apparel immediately.

She went on to explain that she had been looking through photos with her parents when they came across a photo of her wearing it.

"So, tell me, what about that shirt goes with those pants?" her mom had asked.

The class laughed then because it was very clear that nothing about that shirt went with those pants.

"Well, the shirt is a shirt, and the pants are pants, and shirts and pants go together," she quipped. "That is my very favorite outfit, probably that I've ever worn," she went on to explain.

"Then you should wear it tomorrow," her mom said.

And she did.

And there was a deeper message around that story -- about happiness or yoga or doing what you want or something but I was so busy screaming, "THAT IS THE KIND OF MOM I WANT TO BE," inside of my head that I missed it.

It's as easy -- and as difficult -- as that. Acceptance and celebration of who they are, even if I don't quite get it.

"Then you should wear it tomorrow."

I couldn't do the handstand thing she was trying to teach us yet, but I still learned a lot.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Generous Listening

My kids like video games.

little kid especially loves to interrupt what I am doing to explain a digital incident to me, frame-by-frame in all of its virtual glory. He is enthusiastic and eager to share these adventures and even though it is extremely hard to do, I feign interest even if I'm having a panic attack about the possibility of dying of old age before the story ends -- because I love him and he wants to connect with me in this way, and I'm lucky for it.

"So there was this Stopmore guard, a whole legion of them and I only had a steel battle ax."

"Yeah? So what did you do?"

"I just had to go for it. I started swinging, left and right, and when I realized that wouldn't work, I ran but there was a guy with a horse and the guy with a horse had a blahblahblah and I climbed this blahblahblah and ducked left and found a cache with a steel hammer so then there was this slow motion scene..."

"Wait one second," I interrupt. "Mr. Ashley! Mr. Ashley, come here! You have to hear this one. little kid, start from the beginning, he can't miss this."

"So there was this Stopmore guard, a whole legion of them and I only had a steel battle ax..."

And Mr. Ashley tries not to give me a dirty look and I try not to laugh and we both make interested faces as we listen to the story because we love him and he wants to connect with us in this way and we're lucky for it. Together.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Family Ties

little kid and I like to talk about the names of his future children.

Rose, Summer and Maria are at the top his girl list right now.


Jack and Dominick are his boy names.

So freaking cute.

"You could name your daughter Aquifer," I joked one day after we were discussing wells. (Yes, like wells for water. We talk about weird things.) "Aquifer McCann."

"Maybe I'll change my last name." He said.

"Change it?!"

"Well, maybe I'll take my wife's last name. I don't know."

"Wow. That's awfully progressive of you! Very forward thinking. That's pretty cool."

"You never know, mom, maybe she'll have a cool last name. Besides, I've decided you should probably do whatever your wife wants. If she wants us to use her last name, we will."

Dear future daughter-in-law, I'm writing this for you. I don't care what you call yourselves but you're going to be a lucky lady.

You and little Aquifer both.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

True Wealth

little kid is really into reading this year.

His teacher offers full-size candy bars to kids who reach a certain reading goal, and that just sparked the love of literature into a full-on inferno.

"Mom, if you could have a Lamborghini or 9 really nice bookcases full of your favorite books, which would you pick?"

"The Lamborghini," I said without pause.


"What? I have a Kindle and a library card. No one's lending me a Lamborghini."

"You know what I would pick, mom?"


"I'd pick the books. Because I could read them all and get the knowledge and get into a good college and get a good job and get my own Lamborghini AND still have the books."

"That is an amazing answer! I'm really proud of you! I am so impressed by your motivation this year!"

"Now what would you pick?"

"Still the Lambo."


This kid's going places.

Maybe I'll even drive him there in my Lamborghini.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Search for Happiness

Sunday was my 37th birthday.

I spent the entire day in bed with unbrushed hair and no pants, feeling fuzzy and warm inside from an abundance of both Facebook birthday wishes and Nyquil, alternating between shivering, arguing with Mr. Ashley that I had broken a rib coughing, and watching Netflix for about 8 hours straight.

Pretty much the perfect day.

Although it was my 7th day of flu-monia-bola (self-diagnosed) it was one of the first where I got to be the only sick person in the house. As a mom, being sick without having to take care of other sick people is as rare as the super blood moon lunar eclipse that happened that night. People did stuff for me and cleaned up after me and brought me things. It was like my birthday. And it was my birthday! The stars aligned.

I watched Hector and the Search for Happiness on Netflix, a title I almost scrolled past until remembering a book review with a similar title that was on my "to read" list. Since my reading list isn't getting any shorter I thought it might be nice to cross this one off with a movie instead -- and I can't tell you how glad I am that I saw this, and that I saw it when I did. It was exactly what I needed. It's a quietly sweet and moving story, just quirky enough to be captivating without becoming a distraction. It was lovely.

"Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness." 

It was just what I needed. I liked that line so much that I texted it to myself so I wouldn't forget it. There were a million striking little moments like that; I felt like I should be taking notes. 

And now I've got to read the book right away. Life has been so busy that I feel like I don't have one spare moment in the world to do so, but I must. 

Sometimes it seems like the universe is telling me that the key to happiness is to go eat/pray/love my way around the world while hiding from everyone and everything who annoys me but I will admit that maybe I have to listen a little harder to the universe on that one. I might have misheard. 

The universe might have said that, though. And I might have broken a rib.

Sometimes the universe also urges me to take more cough medicine, too, though, so maybe it's a bad influence. 

Later the boys snuggled me and we watched Mickey and the Beanstalk and no one wrestled or argued. Even my cat was nice to me and he's a sassy little jerk. The stars aligned indeed. 

It really was a great day.

So stay tuned for my upcoming mid-life crisis -- I'm trying to narrow it down between running away or staying in bed. Money is unfortunately a factor in both decisions so let's hope the universe gets shit figured out soon.

(I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team but was not compensated for this post or asked to watch this movie. We're just friends, okay? I mean, if they wanted to be more than friends, I would be open to that, especially in light of this mid-life crisis thing but for now this post is uninfluenced by our relationship. I'm not above selling out, I just haven't yet.) 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mom/Boy Band

Much to my delight, little kid has joined ukulele club. I don't know if I'm more delighted that there is such a thing or that he wanted to do it, but I am delighted.

"How was the first day?" I asked when he got home.

"It was so great. I love it. I can already play some notes and I learned the Put the Lime in the Coconut song!"

"That is so exciting!! I will buy you your own ukulele so you don't have to use theirs. Maybe I should buy myself one too! We could be a mom/boy band!"

He was looking at me and smiling, trying to be polite while determining if I was joking or not.

(I really do want my own ukulele and it only makes sense that we would perform together...)

"I could dance too! Look, something like this," I mimed my ukulele playing dance as he watched patiently. "What do you think?" I asked, doing my best to look hopeful and excited as he looked concerned.

"Let's hold off on the dancing right now."

"So we're a yes? I agree we need to polish up the choreography before we go live."

"Yeah...well, let's first get me a ukulele and see how that goes and maybe you can get one for Christmas or something."

So it looks like we'll be ready to tour 2016.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Mr. Right

The kids have been talking about 9/11 a lot since the anniversary recently passed.

"It was a scary day. When the first plane hit, it seemed like an accident but then the other tower got hit, and the Pentagon, and the plane crash."

"And the Octagon." little kid finished.

"No, Pentagon. Not Octagon."

"That's right. The Octagon was saved."

"No, there's no Octagon. You're thinking of the Pentagon. It's shaped like a pentagon."

"There is an Octagon though."

I started to protest and he continued, "Somewhere in the world, there is a building shaped like an octagon. For sure. And it was safe on September 11th."

I'm sure he's right.

He's always right.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Netflix Emergency Preparedness Plan

We were supposed to have a tropical storm this weekend, but Erika was weak and disorganized and fell apart -- a plan of action that mirrors many of my own. We honest to God had more rain during our vacation at the beach house, without the excitement of a named storm.

I was really well-prepared for a weather event so I honored that and worked from home, secure in my bedroom fortress, wearing pajamas and well stocked with snacks and supplies. There wasn't really a storm though, just a steady gray drizzle, but I consider this a successful dry run.

Since the family wasn't able to attend the weather event dress rehearsal, I went ahead and binge watched Don't Trust the B in Apt 23 once I wrapped up work. Now I will feel obligated to laugh at all of the jokes like it's the first time I've heard them since the show used to be something Mr. Ashley and I enjoyed together each night, one episode at a time. It was worth it, though. I never watched while it was on the air because the title is awful and I don't like girl friend shows, but I am glad I happened upon it because it is hilarious. I don't know the last time I've laughed out loud so often, I'm going to be sad to get to the end. Maybe I shouldn't have watched ahead.

I also watched Secret of the Kells over the rainy weekend, which was on Netflix a long time ago and then disappeared for a while. little kid and I loved it then and we love it now, it is so beautifully animated and unique.

Another new favorite is Freakshow, even though it seems a little contrived and occasionally offensive. It's a reality show featuring the family that runs the Venice Beach Freak Show and they seem nice enough but they have a two headed baby in a jar and that's sad.

So, there's a peek at my weather event preparedness plan. Please take not-quite-a-tropical-storms seriously and prepare your queue accordingly.

Please note: I'm a member of the Netflix Stream Team but that doesn't affect my opinions, just my productivity. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Wonder of 9

Yesterday was your birthday. You turned 9 and I know it will suit you well.

Everything does -- from the sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of your tan little nose to the little spike of hair at the crown of your head -- you are vibrant with life and excited about its possibilities and it shows on your happy little face.

You chose Chinese food for your birthday dinner and your fortune said, "Age is just a number, it's how young you feel inside that matters," and you were delighted at this bit of serendipity. You always exclaim about your good luck but I think it's your sense of  gratitude that creates your good fortune. I believe you will always feel young inside.

You still play with toy soldiers. You look for treasure. You play in the dirt with friends. You need hugs from your brother even when you're fighting. You catch and release fish and weep if they die. You make friends effortlessly. You dream of being an engineer or the owner of an tiki hut camping resort with an exotic pet store on site some day.

I hope you're always like that. You are a wonder to behold.

Tonight you proudly presented your clean bedroom and bathroom that you had worked on as a surprise to thank me for giving you such a nice birthday. Every day there is some bit of sweetness, some gift of kindness from you, and every day there is laughter. You are a gift in and of yourself.

9 will be amazing because you are. Stay young forever, I think you can do it.

Happy birthday (yesterday. I was busy birthday-ing you).

I like you, I love you, and I'll always protect you,

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Teen Spirit

School started on Monday, a fact that caused much angst around here. Mostly from one person. A person at an age where life is extremely dramatic.

Whenever school was mentioned -- always accidentally since we all knew not to mention it -- this person would start with the complaints.

"Seriously, what is the deal with you and school?" I finally asked him.

"It is pointless! It never ends, it's all about everything you don't know and your performance on some test is the only thing that really matters. It's always about moving on to the next thing."

"'s learning! You don't know everything yet, and of course they have to move on to the next thing. I don't even know what you imagine changing about this system, the entire point is pretty much to learn one thing and then move on to new things," I replied, confounded.

This was the wrong answer. Any answer was the wrong answer. Anything you say to an irate 7th grader is likely to be the wrong thing.

"It doesn't matter. None of it matters. I'll end up working for Target for $5 an hour, unable to support myself until I die of old age."

I'm at a phase of life where Target sounds like a pretty sweet gig. No offense Target employees, but how stressful could it be? And there's the employee discount and you get to look at things. I wondered why he chose Target in this rant.

"Well, at least you know what you don't want! That's something! Start there. Do you even know the opportunities available to your generation? And your dad and I totally support whatever you want to do or be -- no one is demanding you grow up to go to med school. You don't have to work retail or in a cubicle if you don't want, you could have a career where you work for yourself, pretty much right out of the gate but it will take hustle! Go to art school, write comics, build computers, do whatever you want! Nurture your creativity and find skills that will help you leverage your talent for profit. But you will have to do things you don't like. You know, you could learn to code,  and by the age of 16 you could be building websites for clueless middle-aged business people! You could be making $1000 or more a pop! And then grow into your own business after college but you have to cultivate your interests and do the hard work, even if it's boring now. The world is your oyster, you need --"

Both boys had been watching this speech intently and little kid interrupted, "Wait. The world is his oyster? Why would you say that, mom? Like, the world is your seafood, son, but not even expensive seafood like lobster, just an oyster -- one oyster -- which is probably what, like, a dollar? I don't even know but I don't think it's that big of a deal. The world is your oyster, mom? I mean, really?"

I paused and realized it is a weird thing to say. "That is a thing people say, I didn't make it up. It means that you're the pearl and that --"

Big Kid started ranting again. "Yes. It means that I am TRAPPED in this WORLD and that a seagull will probably SWOOP down and pick me up and POOP ME OUT wherever! I have no control!"

"Okay, well, we lost all momentum with this discussion. Do what you want but school is starting and you have to go."

I was on a roll for a minute there. I'm new to this whole practically a teen thing, it's super tricky.

We're almost one week of school down and he says it's slightly better than prison so I think it's going really well.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Power of Unimportance

Max saw the ocean for the first time on vacation.

We stayed at a cottage on an island without cars or businesses. Our double glass doors opened just steps from the beach, with a view of the Gulf.

After a water taxi ride in a steady gray drizzle, and unloading enough stuff to tide 4 people and a dog over for 8 days, I put the leash on Max for a walk on the beach. As soon as we mounted the small dune that separated us from the sand, I could sense his excitement as he strained at the leash with a wild abandon, racing to the water.

Once we reached the shore, he stared smiling out at the expanse of ocean, radiating happiness.

A lot like this.

That's exactly how I feel when I see the ocean; an exhilarated swelling inside followed by feeling momentarily paralyzed with gratitude.

There are days when I just need that -- my feet in the sand and my breath matching the beat of the waves. I look out at the endless horizon and revel in feeling small; finding relief in my insignificance.

Sometimes I need to zoom out.

I'm always so zoomed in; to parenting, to work, to relationships, to finances, to housework. Everything that is going wrong is so easily magnified and seems urgent and imperative, constantly compounding into even more problems for me to solve.

But when I look out at infinity and focus on the sound of the ocean and my breath, it's all fine. Zoomed out, I'm doing great and I am exactly where I should be, doing what I need to in every area of life. None of it is a big deal compared to forever.

I read three books, collected shark teeth, walked for miles, drank wine early and coffee late, played Uno and refused to play Uno, ate too much dessert, saw an armadillo, and helped two baby turtles beat the odds. I stared out at the ocean and up at the night sky and felt wonderfully, deliciously unimportant.

In the grand scheme of things, everything is awesome.

A perfectly imperfect day.

Now I just need to remember that.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tomorrow I will Be

Tomorrow I will be the mother of a 12-year-old boy.

I remember bringing him home from the hospital (it was yesterday, which makes this 12 years thing confusing but I'm bad at math because, guys, it can't really be 12 years) and surveying every inch of him with my eyes -- his feet the size of my thumb, his skinny, purple vein-threaded legs, the soft blond hair on his tiny back, the perfect swoop of his nose, the golden fuzz on his round head; I would stare in wonder at the veil of gentle serenity that enveloped him as he slept and marvel that such perfection and possibility now suddenly existed in the world.

And I would think, "Oh my God, I better not fuck this up."

With both driving and parenting, sometimes I have intense moments of self-awareness where I just can't believe I'm permitted to do something so potentially dangerous. Then I freak out that people even less qualified than me are allowed to do it.

And sometimes I have close calls, but it mostly goes surprisingly well.

Now I look at him and marvel that his feet are as big as mine, his legs are long and sturdy, his shoulders are broadening, his hair is thick and brushes his shoulders. Little girls seem particularly outgoing in his presence and then I remember being their age and see him through their eyes and, well, it just seems impossible -- this him being 12 thing.

I remember looking at him and wondering what he would look like as a little boy, a teenager, and a man.

Now I look at him and think I know.

I study his character, the essence of who he is, of what he may offer the world -- his quick wit, his philosophical nature, his kind but cautious heart, his appreciation of books and nature, humor and good design, his love of animals and his thoughtfulness, and I know, despite some swerves and bumps in the road, that we are headed in the right direction.

And I am grateful and proud and amazed that we've come so far.

And also sad that we've come so far.

Tomorrow I will be the mother of a 12-year-old boy.

Oh my God, I better not fuck this up.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Role Reversal

We just got back from an island vacation and it was amazing. Mr. Ashley and I were home kid-free for three nights immediately afterwards since the kids went camping with my mom.

This being alone for three nights thing has never happened. Ever. It was also amazing.

We had big plans -- nice dinners out, late nights doing whatever, a trip to the movie theater for an R rated movie. Really exciting stuff if you're a parent.

The reality is that we're old and tired and going to bed early is also really exciting stuff if you're a parent.

"Hey, I was thinking since we're home alone we should experiment with role playing," I proposed on the second night.

"Really?" he asked, interest piqued.

"Yes. I will be sweet and innocent but a little bit naughty. You will be a masseuse --" and then he laughed and laughed and laughed so I couldn't finish.

He (finally) calmed down and said, "That's a really fun idea. You can massage me."

"Uh, what kind of shady shit is that? The customer having to massage the masseuse?? That makes no sense, can you imagine if you went in for a massage and YOU had to give it? You're the masseuse, so you have to do the massaging. I'm going to have to report you to the licensing board if I don't get the massage."

"I've got to give it to you, it was a nice try. But no."

We had dinner at 5pm, went to Home Goods and fell asleep watching Netflix.

It was a pretty exciting night.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


The boys are trying to win a commercial grade soft serve ice cream machine from Jason's Deli.

When I pointed out that we literally don't have the space for such a thing, they presented their plan of getting rid of Big Kid's desk to make room. He will balance his books on top of the ice cream machine to study. They have this all planned out.

If you want to help them realize their dream of unlimited ice cream instead of homework, please click this link and hit vote.

Apples of my Eye

The boys are doing Apple camp this week.

It sounded like fun and it was free, but I was mostly excited about 1.5 hours of alone time for 3 days this week. I was a little disappointed when I got the confirmation letter that stated parents have to remain in the store with their kids -- our store is popular and loud and there's nowhere to sit. So when the counselor said I could go grab a coffee, I did. And shopped.

It worked out.

When I returned, the counselor was telling me how funny and creative the boys are and how much she enjoyed working with them. She told me about another camp that was coming up and I explained that the online system had made me choose one or the other. She looked disappointed and asked if I would bring the boys if she could get them signed up. I chose some dates from the list she handed me.

"I was hoping you wouldn't pick that one."

"Oh, did I pick one that was full?" I asked.

"No. I'm taking my daughter to college that week, so I won't be here."

"Oh. Huh. Well, we will just be returning from vacation the day before the other one opens so..."

"But you'll be back by then? It's just that I was really hoping to see what they would make. I've had so much fun working with them." She looked sheepish and hopeful.

It's a little odd and not as convenient, but it's also so nice that I went ahead and chose those dates. Everyone needs more admirers and creativity encouragers in life.

"Camp is awesome," I told them as we were leaving.

"Our counselor is awesome," little kid answered.

They also got free t-shirts, earbuds, and a rousing round of applause from the entire store as the campers entered this morning. It made me a little misty-eyed, and not just because I knew I was about to have uninterrupted coffee.