From the Daughter’s Files

Mother Knows Best  Knows A Lot Knows More Than We’ll Admit

-By the blogger’s daughter

“So…how do you hang stuff on the walls without using nails? And if you were hypothetically going to wash all of your clothes in one load, how do you do it without ruining them? And my roommate has the flu what do I do?”

It has begun.

Twenty-somethings we are (finally) out on our own. And moms you are probably already answering these questions in your head.

They say your relationship with your mother changes as you get older, but when they talk about your twenties it’s all about looking at her fondly for her newly recognized wisdom. I’d say it’s more like quiet desperation.

This stage of life is akin to being handed a comprehensive final exam without (a) having had the chance to sit through lectures 5-30 and (b) knowing that there will be questions with multiple okay answers or no right answers.

So you do the only thing that you can do –you cheat off of somebody else! And your parents are probably sitting closest to you. And your mother may move her hand and let you see some of her answers if you are really nice to her. Of course some of her answers may be wrong but she has a heck of a lot more of this test filled in than you!

There are some big ones like filling out personal checks and meal planning. But it’s the everyday questions that cut me down to size.

The other evening it was a potato.

I have a science degree and can tell you the molecular structure of the potato, but I am at a loss when it comes to actually cooking the little brown tuber. It’s a deceivingly simple vegetable. So with kitchen neatly prepped out comes the phone.

“Hi mom! You’re not busy or anything right?…Do you wash a potato with soap?…So when the potato recipe says ‘slice’ is that long-ways or short?…And it says bake but can I microwave?…What does the broiler on an oven actually ever do anyway?…Oh this recipe calls for several spices. I have the main one but I never bought parsley (because how often could you need it??)…Well spices are expensive!…Can I come over and borrow some?…What are you making for dinner tonight?”

I’m pretty sure that when Solomon wrote Proverbs he included ‘A time to stubbornly assert your independence, and a time to suck it up and call your mother.’ If you’re currently on bad terms with your mother you have to turn to Google or Pinterest where other people’s moms have posted their answers. But it never seems to turn out the same.

This may be just a phase and steadily I will learn one mistake at a time, but until then I will continue to get my answers from the closest reliable sources.

“Hi dad! How’s it going? So my toilet is making this really funny sound…”

Leader of the Pack

I read Jack London in junior high school, so I really have no excuse.

I know what an alpha dog is and why one is required in a wolf pack.

Have you met my family?

Noticed anything particular when we convene?

What do you get when you marry a first-born to a first-born who then produce at least two additional first-borns?

That’s right.

Almost daily campaigns for the Ultimate Dictator of the Free World.

I can tell you right now who the winner should be.

I have a pretty wicked stink eye.

You don’t want that.

Hubby and I can, just barely, keep the children at bay.

But when you’ve been married almost 30 years, everything from opening windows to reading a novel has been cause for WWIII.

Yeah, I’ve read every marriage improvement book out there.

Somehow I figured that if I could just pinpoint the “problem”, our home would become the Good Ship Lollipop.

All the books give you different advice and you try them all, just in case you missed a spot.

One of them said, “Don’t go to bed angry.” I could choose between going sleepless for a week or crashing on the couch.

One advised, “Keep regular date nights.” It didn’t have advice for the feuds over which restaurant, which outfit, or what was safe to discuss once you got there.

One of my favorites insisted on “setting firm boundaries”.

So I told Hubby he could have a bureau in the corner and everything else, as far as the eye could see, was my domain.

I scent-marked it with Lysol.

When you’re snapping at each other, it’s hard to hang out with your “newlywed phase” friends.

They’re all kissy and cuddly and honey-booboo and you’re thinking, “Man, where are the drinks?”

I understand that wolves mate for life, but I put the “tea” in “team” and that’s where it stops.

You just don’t appreciate all the twists and tribulations of raising five children, creating hearth and home on a daily basis, and what it takes to keep our pack from going on a rampage.

Throw me a bone, people.

But I’m all done reading books on strategy.

This mama wolf is tired of the growling and snarling.

For my next maneuver, I’m gonna slink outside and howl at the moon.

And hope at some point we wander into the civilized world, where we move past our fierce need to be right and into a domesticated confidence that shares the honor.

Lego Wars

Occasionally, I receive questions from my delightful readers seeking advice.

Much like Dear Abby, I am asked about relationships “My husband insists on leaving his dirty socks just outside of the hamper. Should I pick them up for him, or put them all under his pillow?” and job etiquette “My coworkers found my breast-pumping equipment under my desk; now what?” and shady conduct “My teenaged son and his friend were rummaging through the kitchen asking if we had any sulfur in the house; should I worry?”

I’m eager to help.

“Not to worry,” I replied, “unless his grades are falling drastically, this is only a 9th grade phase. Remind him that – whatever it is – it’s an outside activity.”

I attached an internet connection for the best deal on sulfur (Costco).

Recently, an avid reader was having troubles with her only child.

The trouble: her only child loves Lego.

“I’ve been trying to figure out how to organize and manage all our Legos. Any advice?”

Only Child has approximately a million little Lego pieces that mom has been trying to corral for years, Pinterest style, into tubs, cubbies, bags and bins.

She saved all the boxed sets together and kept all the boxes.

I have five kids.

I’ve had Legos in my house plants for over 20 years.

My over-six-foot-tall kids still beg for more.

“Yes,” I answered, “we keep them all in a closet and if the door shuts, we win! Seriously, just put a bed sheet out on the floor, dump the Legos on it to play, and when you’re done, dump them back into the tub and put them away.”

I considered the girlfriend I was talking to and added, “Most of the fun of Legos is digging through the heaps and discovering little bits of treasure.”

I didn’t mention that some of the treasure is actually fuzzy lollipop sticks and Barbie shoes and old melty Jolly Ranchers and occasional toenails.

I could feel her frowning in disbelief that I, the Queen of Chaos Control, would recommend such reckless abandon.

So I sent her a real-time photo. Straight out of my den.

“I think I like your bed sheet idea,” she said after a moment.

“I kept them in sets but Only Child keeps pulling out various pieces to make her own thing. I guess that’s what it’s all about – getting creative.”

I wanted to tell her that The Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about, but instead I replied, “Exactly so. Kiss all the money you spent on sets goodbye and embrace the total mayhem.”

And I sent her another picture.

“Obviously ours aren’t even in the closet, so at present…we aren’t even winning that.”

“You’re very very liberating!” she said, “I think I’m going to go for it! Trying to organize them all is just making me nutso.”

“I’m very sure you’re entertaining when you’re nutso,” said I, “I want a picture if it happens.”

“Many have witnessed it,” said she, “but rarely is it documented.”

I could feel her courage building.

Then she found all the boxes.

“Take a photo, it’ll last longer.”

“I still have the booklets for assembly. Maybe I’ll just save those and recycle these dumb boxes.”

I just love purging parties.

She got a large tub.

And one by one, dumped the household Legos into it.

“Stiff upper lip!” she declared, as she found more and more Legos in hiding.

Slowly the tub filled. The sets dissolved into one large teeming mass of colored bits.

“I’m way out of my comfort zone,” she said, starting to hyperventilate.

“Learn to get comfy. Stick your hands in and swirl it up. Feel the freedom! You’ve got to embrace your inner slob!”

“I just freed up 50 ziplock baggies!” she cried in victory.

“You could gently release them into the wild, or save them for the next compulsive organization project. Your call.”

“Truth be told, this is so much easier,” she sighed, “Only Child is totally on board, and Hubby will be the most grateful to you! I save everything, so this is a big step. Feels great! Thank you Jolie!”

“You’re welcome. The therapy bill is in the mail.”

I really shouldn’t get the credit, though.

We live a short drive from the best theme park in the world: Legoland.

You know how they store the play area pieces?

Giant mosh pits.

Only factory robots can put the right pieces together into the right sets.

But then they permanently seal them and make people pay to open them.

So clever.