new york city kid in arkansas
category: Uncategorized
tags:

Huck, who loves to alphabetize books onto shelves and should probably be a librarian one day, suggested we reorganize our bookshelves together. In doing so I discovered not only an insane amount of dust that pretty much amounted to another dog, but also some old baby journals Troy and I faithfully wrote in during Huck’s first four years. I knew reading these would be a wonderful experience for the two of us, but I was surprised when Huck took pleasure in hearing old stories as well. You’d think everything that ever happened had been recorded in The Adventures of Huck baby blog, but apparently not.

I also found some large scrapbooks that I semi-faithfully kept during Huck’s first nine years. The last one is half filled with cards and the kind of memorabilia you would expect. But then it appears that right around his 9th birthday this task became too much for me, and instead I shoved things into it for later. I did not know later would take four years.

I quickly realized that part of the problem was the need for large 12×12 scrapbook paper to go into the photo sleeves so that cards and things could be attached to it. The inability to find such paper must be what ended the project all those years ago, but now I work at a school with scraps of paper and random things in various closets that no one uses. The next day I went into what used to be our drama office and is now a storage for all artsy-crafty things donated and undiscovered. Within seconds I found a pile of old, dusty scrapbooks filled with unused 12×12 whitish paper. I took what I needed and then stopped and looked around the room, marveling for a moment at how much things have changed over my four years at The New School. And then I realized the real reason I stopped having time for the scrapbook project.

Yesterday at work I said goodbye to three of my very favorite people. They packed up their offices like so many before them over the last difficult year, loaded their cars and/or moving trucks and left the school for good. I sort of had a lump in my throat for most of the day, and I told Troy and Huck I really needed a good cry. Huck asked, “Do you mean a happy cry or a sad cry?” and I said, “Yes.”

Five years ago today we left New York City for our pilgrimage to Fayetteville. I’m reading “The Grapes of Wrath” right now and keep combining the two journeys in my mind, dwelling on how difficult it is to leave a place you love in hopes of loving the new place even more, how difficult to say goodbye, how difficult change can be. Fourteen years ago tomorrow I took a positive pregnancy test, which means about 5000 Troy-made smoothies. Change is also good.

Time to finish that scrapbook.

category: Uncategorized
tags:

We left New York for the Ozarks five years ago, and in all this time we hadn’t taken a trip by airplane until early this month. Huck has inherited my talent for anxiety, and since travel halfway across the country can bring that out in a person, I had to do my very best to hide mine so that he would relax. He’s exactly my size now, and so it was no surprise that on the first Southwest leg of the trip to Las Vegas not a single person offered to change seats so that he could sit with his little mother. We three were separated at the back of the plane and I felt all kinds of frustration until I realized he was fine and I had just been given 2.5 hours of alone-time.

We started our California vacation about an hour and a half north of San Francisco in a beautiful place with an incredible view called Helen’s House with our dear Texan friends Shannon and Greg. It didn’t take long for Troy and I to begin planning to retire at Helen’s House, even if it meant living in a tent. We visited beaches, the redwoods, a winery, the Golden Gate Bridge, and added to our many ridiculous inside jokes from years and years of Longhorn friendship. We spent time with our dear friend Amy and her dog Huckleberry in Oakland before taking a 12 hour train ride to LA where we joined more dear friends Dusty, Natalie, Tony, Martel and Loy. There we hiked, beached, rode a ferris wheel, ate, drank, replaced our good-for-nothing rental car, visited Dreamworks, and played Mafia like old times. Our last night in that glorious state found us surrounded by former New Yorkers, most of whom have made LA their home, and not a one of us had changed much since last we met, aside from the tall, slightly familiar looking children following us around.

Well, there may have been a few more laugh lines.

category: Uncategorized
tags:

Here we are again in beautiful, warm, green, flower-filled, allergy-ridden, busy May with its end-of-school-year events, spring parties, graduations, awards ceremonies, concerts and summer plans afoot. Huck hears the gorgeous weekend forecast and complains that his parents will abandon him for the backyard (he prefers the non-buggy air conditioned climate). Sunny paces around anxiously waiting for more walks and dips in the neighborhood pond. Troy can’t stop planting, pruning, mowing and watering, and I can’t stop purchasing comfortable lounging type lawn furniture, which says a lot about our personalities.

As I’ve heard people say: “Can’t Complain.”

My sister Jeni and I were recently talking about how much our little brains always need something to worry about. Both of us had just experienced some work stress and general parental anxiety that fulfilled that need quite nicely, but then about a week ago we found ourselves without anything urgent or upsetting hanging over our heads (not counting school shootings and cancer). We began frantically brainstorming something, anything problematic in our personal lives that needed to be solved. And like an answered prayer, the white porch rocker I’d ordered online arrived with a strange hole in the left arm rest. Oh, this was unacceptable! I excitedly ran to the computer to demand a replacement part ASAP, almost happy for this setback. A fellow worrier who had just come off a very stressful semester shared with me her latest invented concern: finding the perfect travel shoes for a trip to Europe. Thank God for the seasons in our life when the true suffering disappears momentarily and is replaced by the fake kind.

Every now and then I give Sunny a humble rawhide bone, and when I do she looks at me sadly, like she doesn’t deserve such a treat. Once she knows I’m far away in another room, she decides the bone is safe to put in her mouth. Then she slinks past me to another room with suspicious eyes, as if I might steal it. After a few minutes she slinks back to the original room, and after a few more of these strange journeys she finally eats the whole thing up in under a minute.

Troy and I just celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary, Huck has nearly survived a very good 7th grade year, I just got a much longed for job promotion, and the rocking chair company promptly sent us not one but TWO perfect arms without holes. Sometimes I feel like Sunny Dog with her lil’ bone, not sure what to do with such a gift, maybe worried about how quickly it will be gone. Recently while driving to work I saw a mom and her toddler son playing together near a pond. Queen’s “Pressure” was playing in my car, and the whole scene felt like a sad movie and I had to look away. I used to be a mom like that with a boy like that and very little pressure during those sweet long days without a job. It’s the time of year, I know it is. Things are ending and people are saying goodbye and a certain little voice is beginning to change and a certain baby nephew turned 17 today and I really, really need something to worry about. I pulled into the parking lot in time to sing along to one of the very best endings:

“Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the  edge of the night
And loves dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure.”

category: Uncategorized
tags:

This spring break we got Huck a new bike whose color matches the beginnings of the season, and we finally fixed Troy’s old bike. We discovered the decade-old HBO miniseries “John Adams” and this great new show called “The Voice,” now in its 14th season. We went on dog walks, bike rides, family hikes, short runs and long dentist appointments together. We read many books and we played many board games, all of which I won by some strange streak of spring break luck. Huck taught himself to make more homemade tortillas than our family could possibly eat. We sent Troy to the eye doctor and got him some glasses that cost more than his entire collection of “readers” from Dollar Tree. Some of us played laser-tag and video games while others of us slept in each and every blessed morning. We planted marigolds, basil, sunflowers, petunias and other magical things, and we took our allergy medicine. We sat in front of our fireplace when the weather felt more like winter; on other days we got suntans. This morning we waved palms. And we finally replaced our refrigerator’s water filter.

In other words, we took the whole week off.

category: Uncategorized
tags:

Today Huck woke up, filmed himself on his iPhone playing the viola for homework, watched his annual Pi Day video from YouTuber Vi Hart while eating breakfast, debated whether or not to wear his hexaflexagon t-shirt in honor of the special day, discussed how on earth to bring home the box of Yankee Candles that we and other friends had ordered for his choir fundraiser, and finally headed off to school with plans to participate in this morning’s National School Walkout, fully supported by his public junior high and his parents, to protest gun violence and honor those who lost their lives.

Just another day in 2018.

Meanwhile we continue to find love notes from Aunt Jeni, who was with us all last weekend for her 14th annual March visit. Aside from our car breaking down in the grocery store parking lot and having to be towed to our trusty mechanics, we had a typically delightful time full of conversation, laughter, board games, walks, Arkansas sunshine and Rolos. I present a small fraction of our photos …

category: Uncategorized
tags:

And just like that, we have a 13 year old child. Just kidding! There was nothing “just like that” about it. Thirteen years is forever! Think of all the laughs and firsts and tears and stories and songs and friends and disappointments and time-outs and homework and lessons and books and holidays and colds and fevers and field trips and play dates and seasons and rules and meals and snacks and fights and presents and games and vacations and video games and TV shows and heartbreaks and snuggles. One evening a little over 13 years ago I looked at the many new baby items littering our tiny New York apartment and said to Troy, who was fresh out of therapy for parenthood panic: “The baby is going to always be with us. Like all the time.” This was followed by profound silence as we together realized we’d forgotten that the abstract was about to become very concrete.

I think this picture perfectly sums up 13 years of parenting. Happy birthday to our favorite person whose intelligence, talents, tolerance, kindness, bossiness and wit make everything a beautiful mixture of both the abstract and concrete. Like all the time.

category: Uncategorized
tags:

We’re not big Valentine’s Day celebrators around here, maybe because so many of our February fourteenths over the years have found at least one of us sick, as if on cue. But we always manage homemade cards for me, chocolates for Troy and small gifts for Huck. This year’s was especially busy thanks to Ash Wednesday, and by the time we were all back home in our pajamas and matching forehead crosses, Huck had us working on his radio show class project. Around the two hour mark his school laptop froze and everything was lost, including all of my Foley work, though I hate to make this about me. I hugged our sobbing, delirious child and shot Troy a look that reminded him whose idea it was to have a baby. We finally convinced Huck it was not the end of the world, there’s always tomorrow, his teacher is not a monster and will understand. He went to bed and we ended the day venting about junior high, group projects, homework and hormones. At some point I cleaned my dirty forehead with a washcloth and felt we may have entered a whole new low in the Valentine’s Day department.

Cue the ear infection!

A few weeks ago Huck was asked to attend a Sadie Hawkins dance by his very good friend Cassidy who goes to a different school. His lack of interest in dances and romance was canceled out by their years of friendship, and so he agreed to go. Together he and I spent Saturday afternoon shopping for “semi-formal” clothing, texting Troy dressing room photos for his approval. Once we got home I sat back and observed the Troy-led tutorials on tie-tying and hat-wearing, hoping I could get through the evening without posting a picture on social media with the cutline: OMG I’M DYING OVER THIS OUTFIT! We three joined Cassidy and her parents for a delicious pre-dance dinner at their house, joked about Huck putting some pita bread in his jacket pocket for later, and then wished them all luck as we went off into the night to reclaim our failed Valentine’s day. They lasted 45 minutes at the “awful, loud” dance, and then went back to her place for board games in their fancy outfits while Troy and I were across town watching a movie in our pajamas.

Sometimes that’s all you need.

category: Uncategorized
tags:

Troy and I have been working side by side, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for a week now directing the pre-K extravaganza and New School tradition that is The Circus Play. There have been highs; there have been lows. The other day I knelt down on the lobby floor with all of the Super Strong Kids so that we could practice the lyrics of their song before entering the theatre. A little tiny boy about the size of my arm made a terrible face and backed away from me. I kept singing, though my confidence was fading fast. He then began gasping for air, coughing as if he might die, and shouted: “SHE JUST BLEW HER BAD BREATH ALL OVER ME!” Minutes later another little boy told me I was Mr. Troy’s mommy. I explained that I was actually Mr. Troy’s WIFE (which we’ve been over many times). He said, “You will BECOME Mr. Troy’s mommy.” I insisted that I would NEVER be Mr. Troy’s mommy, but that I was actually a mommy to Mr. Troy’s SON, which sounded scandalous and was met with skeptical faces. Moments after that another boy hugged me tightly and announced, “You smell SO good!” Still, as soon as I had a free minute I grabbed five Lifesavers and vowed never to have coffee right before rehearsal.

Sometimes in the evenings we recover from our prekindergarten trauma by watching something on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon, and we’ve discovered that some of our favorite shows are somewhat Huck friendly, especially if we let him “multi-task,” which means play Minecraft on the laptop and only half-pay attention to the TV. This was particularly helpful during the long Christmas break with no bed time in sight for our 12 year old who always likes to be in the same room with us. We were pretty happy to discover that our beloved Tig Notaro’s show One Mississippi was perfect for the three of us, until it wasn’t. I may forever suffer post-traumatic stress from the moment when everything went wrong very quickly and without warning. I began shouting back and forth in an alarming voice: “DON’T LOOK AT THE TV! TURN THE TV OFF! DON’T LOOK AT THE TV! TURN THE TV OFF!” Troy panicked and stood in front of our enormous TV that we’d just inherited from a friend, making us regret the decision for a minute there. Huck stared intensely at his little screen, wondering what he was missing but having a vague idea due to the incredible sound system on the new TV. When finally Troy remembered how to turn it completely off, I put my head into my hands and hyperventilated for a while. Troy would later say something like, “It’s pretty funny that Huck’s first encounter with a TV sex scene involved a double mastectomy, CGI boobs and his mother screaming.” Thank God for Black-ish.

This week our Circus Play will come and go, and by the weekend we’ll have moved on to new adventures with new problems and new to-do lists. I just read Thornton Wilder’s Our Town with my 7th and 8th grade drama students, kids old enough to never mention my bad breath but not quite old enough to truly appreciate a great play or watch Tig Notaro. Even still, we had a good conversation about one of Emily’s final lines: “Oh earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.” We decided the play wanted us to try and appreciate the little things while we can.

Ok, then.

category: Uncategorized
tags:

As the pictures below suggest, we had a very lovely Christmas visit with our Kansas family, including snow, many movies, cozy fires, redundant magic shows and laughter galore. Now we’re back to being Fayetteville homebodies in front of our own fire, and I’m doing my usual December 31st routine. You know, reminiscing in my pajamas about the year gone by while daydreaming about the one to come.

Last night we celebrated our beloved priest Lowell Grisham’s retirement from St. Paul’s where our wonderful mayor Lioneld Jordan spoke about Lowell’s relentless loving work on behalf of LGBTQI people and minority people and poor people and every other kind of people that Jesus would have us look after. I whispered to Huck something about the miracle of those two men helping lead a southern town in the corner of Arkansas, and for a split second I felt some hope for this ol’ country of ours that has surely seen better days. At the end of the night we all held onto each other and sang “Auld Lang Syne” as a final goodbye, promising to take a cup of kindness yet.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds or all those days that follow, but I think I’ll just keep holding on to the people I love and chugging from that cup. Especially on this bitterly cold winter’s day that has so far included, among other things, a fireside game of Life that turned me into a pig farmer veterinarian with a $100K salary and a timely $50K bonus for keeping three of my New Year’s resolutions.

Cheers!

category: Uncategorized
tags:

One of my holiday highlights was an afternoon recently in Baum Walker Hall’s balcony at the Walton Arts Center watching and listening to Huck’s orchestra teacher and the rest of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas play lots of beautiful music, including the soundtrack for the short film “The Snowman.” The concert included an audience singalong of festive favorites like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “White Christmas,” and believe me when I say that the son of Troy Schremmer does not hold back when he’s told to sing. The lady in front of us couldn’t resist sneaking a look at the source of such vibrant and loud musicality, causing me to give a humble nod of acknowledgement. I’ve taken Huck to Broadway, I’ve taken him to dance concerts, I’ve taken him to Shakespeare, I’ve taken him to the circus, I’ve taken him to movies, and I’ve taken him to more children’s theatre than he cares to remember. Finally I know what it’s like to sit next to my child in an audience and have my rapt attention and excitement matched, possibly even exceeded. May our stockings be filled with symphony tickets.

Merry Christmas, loved ones!