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Easy Grammar Tips: Lie vs. Lay

Grammar is hard. Do you know why? I’ll tell you why — it’s loaded with rules that contradict each other all over the place. Plus, it’s boring. Who wants to pause mid-sentence to look up a rule? Here, I aim to break down grammar rules into quick, easy-to-understand-and-remember formats so they’ll stick in your brain — like gum in your hair. Rule #1: When writing about grammar, a grammar mistake will inevitably be made. Now that I’ve admitted it, it won’t be so terrible when you find one. I don’t know everything about grammar, but I do know a lot. Here’s one thing I know:

Thrilled by the Thought’s Easy Grammar Tips Series

Lie vs. Lay


English, gals and guys. English. It’s like it wants you to hate its guts with all your heart. Nowhere is this more evident than in the dreaded lie vs. lay conundrum.

In short, lie is to recline. Lay needs an object.

The end, right? Ha. If that’s all we needed to know, nobody would ever have trouble remembering the difference.

In truth, lie vs. lay is an incredibly confusing distinction to make. It’s easier for me when I’m writing because there’s time to think it through (or look up the rule). But when I’m speaking, I botch these words up like a first-year butcher. Even Grammar Girl admits she struggles with lay vs. lie.

Let’s look at it from a different perspective.

Here’s what we need to do first: Stop thinking about lie vs. lay as what it actually is: two similar sounding words that have similar meanings and are confusing as all get-out because English is stupid. (I’m sorry, English. I didn’t mean it.) Try and think of “lie” and “lay” as two completely different words and meanings. Like a tomato and an elephant. One is small and red. The other is big and gray. Totally different. Simple as can be. Right? Um…

But it really does help to try and see the two words as different words with different meanings, rather than as two of the same thing. So learn the meaning of one word. And then learn the meaning of the other. And keep them separate.

As best you can, because come on… it’s lie vs. lay.


Let’s start with the present tense because it’s the most straightforward. (And the only tense I understand completely without looking it up.)

Let’s start with the easier one: Lie 

Lie is to recline. (Or it means you’re telling an untruth, but let’s not go there. See, English? How do you expect us to love you when you’re so wishy-washy?)


“I’m going to lie down after writing this post because it’s really taking a toll on my mental state.”

“You’re also going to need to lie down after reading this, and hope your dreams make the concept a bit more clear.”


So lie is straightforward in that it means someone lies down. Put that in your mind grapes, and keep it there.

Now pretend there isn’t another totally similar word with a similar meaning lurking around the corner. Just pretend!

Alright. Ready to move on?

Take a deep breath.


Now for the completely different word with a totally new meaning. The tomato, if you will. (I know, I know. I’m not being very convincing about two totally separate words, am I? But let’s keep going with this train of thought.)

Here comes a slightly more confusing definition. (But I’ll make it slightly easier! I promise!) Lay is when there is an object involved. It’s being done TO something.

Think: “And now I lay me down to sleep.”

Saying, “And now I lie me down to sleep” just sounds silly. Repeat the correct phrase in your head, and you’ll see the elephant is totally different from the tomato. (Well, they’re both a little round…)


“I’ll be sure to lay my phone on the table before pulling my hair out over the frustration of these two words!

“I’m going to lay the baby down for a nap.”  “I’m going to lie the baby down for a nap” just sounds silly.

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Now, when it comes to past tense, past participle (what?), and what-have-you, all bets are off. Look at this chart when you need help.

Lay Laid Laid
Lie Lay Lain


If you’re feeling ambitious, memorize it. I’ve memorized a couple of them, and it wasn’t all that bad. I’m not saying it was as fun as an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe or winning a million dollars tax free, but… ya know — I derived a small joy from broadening an understanding. If I ever figure out how to get the past tense right every single time without checking, I’ll share my secret.

But don’t hold your breath… because you’ll pass out. You know — because that’s how long it’s going to take me to figure this out.

Because it’s really hard.



This girl.

She’s hilarious. She possesses perfect comedic timing, and she loves to make people laugh. She loves to be happy.

But when she’s tired, she thrives on misery.

Yesterday, we spent less than 30 seconds taking family pictures at Thanksgiving dinner. From the look on her face, you might think we had starved her, taken all her toys, made her sit in a dark room for three straight days, and then pulled her out with harsh instructions to say “CHEESE!”



My brother asked me what was wrong with her, and I said, “It’s just her life.”

“Wow. Some life,” he said.

When she’s on, she’s so on.


But when she’s off, watch out.

Having her older sister home from school this week, combined with less sleep than normal due to the holiday, has nudged her into the “off” position. Every word from Emma’s lips is a whine, even when there’s nothing to whine about.

“Mooooom, I want a pet,” she whined two days ago. “Wait. Do we have a pet?” she asked, suddenly remembering our pet cat.

I nodded.

I watched her lose fuel, and then… LIGHT BULB!

Immediately back in full-whining mode, she said, “But I want a hyena. But I can’t have one because they’re too dangerous.” Her lips pointed downward; her eyes may have filled with tears. And she most definitely had her arms folded across her chest in anger at the unfair situation she’s been thrust into in suburban America — where no hyenas are to be found.

Last night, she needed some attention again. Standing in the kitchen, doing nothing, she announced, “I wanna put the foam soap in the bath water.” When nobody understood what she was saying, or why, she pulled out her best whine and continued. “I don’t wanna put it on my body.”

Lydia, her big sister who can’t avoid a fight for the life of her, jumped in. “NO! I don’t want her to waste it!”

Emma, glad for an audience, returned with her whine. “I don’t want to put it on my body.” Arms folded in defiance.

Ryan intervened, completely befuddled at the kitchen conversation about a bath that wasn’t even taking place.

Lydia walked out of the room. “I don’t want Lydia to walk through that door!” Emma fumed.

Ryan hid his giggles.

When Ryan and I reconvene at night after the kidlets are all in bed, #1 on our topics of conversation is the ridiculousness of Sweet Emma. In a few days, she’ll accumulate enough sleep, and our little comedian will be back. In the meantime, we laugh at the mental gymnastics we all endure at the hands of our little sociopath.



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Tooth Fairy Mishaps

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I once sang my praises of the tooth fairy, grateful for a mythical creature who could take the trauma of losing a part of one’s face away from my sensitive and dramatic child.

And I’ve loved the tooth fairy for three years now because of the excitement she brings to an otherwise unpleasant event.

But last night, my husband and I were a bit frustrated at that darn tooth fairy. More specifically, we were frustrated at the hoops we had to jump through because of her existence.

Lydia gleefully placed her tooth in the tooth fairy pouch and left it under her pillow last night. She also left a pencil with a tiny note, thanking the tooth fairy for the dollar she was about to receive, as well as asking for the tooth fairy to write her name. (Dentarella, in case you’re wondering.)

She wondered if maybe she would get a substitute fairy who would bring something other than a dollar. “My tooth fairy may be busy tonight, and the substitute might bring a toy or something,” she suggested. (What’s wrong with a dollar? That’s what I wanna know.)

When we went to bed a few hours later, my husband snuck into her room, a perfectly acceptable dollar bill clenched in his hand, and went straight for her pillow.

Her eyes popped open.

He retreated.

We wasted time until we felt the coast would be clear, and then he headed back in.

Her eyes popped open before he even neared the pillow.

Another retreat.

We were getting tired by this point.

It was time for me to take my turn. She remained asleep as I entered her room. I made it all the way to her pillow, my hand searching frantically underneath for the pouch. For some reason, the pouch, note, and pencil were nowhere to be found. (How does one lose a pencil under a pillow?) Suddenly, her eyes popped open from the head jostling she was getting during my search.

“Hi Sweetie,” I whispered, quickly pulling my hand away.

“Mommy,” she groggily began. “Why do people keep coming in my room?”

I kissed her forehead, and made my sad retreat. “We’ve been made,” I told my husband.

It was late by this point, and we weren’t too eager to try again. So my husband set an alarm for 2 in the a.m., and we headed to bed.

When he stumbled into her room at 2:00, barely able to keep his eyes open, he made it to the pillow — but couldn’t find the tooth anywhere. Her head was bobbing up and down as he searched like a madman. Fearful she would wake up, he finally threw the dollar under the pillow and hoped it landed in a secure place. He doesn’t remember how he made it back to bed.

When I woke her up for school this morning, I hesitantly asked if the tooth fairy had visited her.

“I don’t know!” she said, excitedly. “I haven’t checked.”

I told her to check, even though I wasn’t quite sure what we would find.

We found her tooth. We found the note.

We didn’t find the dollar.

“What?” she asked, heartbroken the tooth fairy had forgotten her as she pulled out the blood-stained tooth from its pouch.

“What?” I asked, really ticked off at the tooth fairy — and wondering how to play this off.

Suddenly, we found the dollar, crumpled and at the opposite end of the pillow where the tooth lay.

“She must not have been able to find your tooth!” I exclaimed, filled with relief at the sight of that paper bill.

“I bet the pouch was too tight for her to open,” Lydia decided. Nodding, I went with that explanation.

Tonight, her tooth is sitting on the dresser, along with the note, waiting for the tooth fairy to accept it.

In the note, I’m asking this family’s tooth fairy to require dresser exchanges from now on. I just hope we don’t ever end up with a substitute fairy who doesn’t know the new rules.

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Birthday Party: Dinner and a Movie

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We threw a dinner and a movie birthday party for Lydia’s 8th birthday. It was a little… crazy. But also — hands down, the easiest kid birthday party we’ve ever thrown.

Even though it was loud (16 girls will add a few levels of noise to a house) and even though it was messy (see picture above), it was as easy as could be because the only prep work was buying ingredients for dinner, and then making the dinner. After the dinner, the girls watched a movie, and the noise level settled down real nice. There were no games to plan, no crafts to create — the beauty was that the dinner and the movie were the only activities.

I did prepare some discussion cards for the girls to use during the dinner, and that was a hit. The questions were “would you rather” questions, as well as simple things like: What’s your favorite color? or How many brothers and sisters do you have? or Have you ever moved?

Lydia used a “talking stick” as she asked the questions. The only girl who could answer the question was the girl who had the talking stick. They did a great job handing it around the table, and it helped to keep the noise down.

The biggest hit from the discussion cards was the direction to play “telephone.” Remember that game? They played it over and over. And they even played it again after the movie.

Lydia wanted to serve alfredo pasta and nachos, along with fruit salad and green salad. We prepped the two salads before the party, but waited until the girls arrived to make the dinners.

If you’re thinking of planning a dinner and a movie birthday party, this is how it went down for us:

  • Girls arrived in fancy dresses, and ran around the house like crazy. We began preparations for dinner.
  • Girls sat at the table and talked.
  • While Ryan cooked dinner, I went around and gave each girl a serving of fruit salad.
  • Lydia read some discussion cards.
  • I went around with the green salad.
  • Lydia read some more discussion cards.
  • I went around with drinks.
  • Lydia read some more discussion cards.
  • I went around with seconds on salads.
  • Dinner was ready. Ryan and I divided and conquered.
  • Easy as can be.

Apparently, alfredo and nachos are crowd-pleasers, because the girls ate a TON. We expected them to be so talkative and silly that they wouldn’t eat very much, but most of them had seconds, thirds, or even more. We planned a lot, just to be safe, and that was a good thing!

The whole party was 3-1/2 hours, which was just about right. The dinner took a little over an hour. Then, there was cake and presents. We had the girls bring pajamas to change into for the movie, and that took a little while. The movie (with popcorn, of course)  ended a few minutes before the party was over, and everyone went on their merry way.


There are two things I would have done differently:

  1. Hire a babysitter for the baby. He was hungry and left out. We eventually fed him on the floor. Cute little puppy.
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  2. Not have the girls change into jammies. It was a little chaotic to keep track of everyone’s clothes. Next time, I would probably have the whole thing be a pajama party — and shorten it to a 3-hour party.


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Writing Tips — Check Your Beginning Words

None of us have written the Great American Novel, but we can all write. I believe we all have stories upon stories in us that are just waiting to be pushed out and appreciated by an audience — even if that audience is only you in your personal journal. The writing tips in this series are designed to take what you already know how to do, and just add a little bit more pizzazz, depth, clarity, and/or beauty to your already-beautiful story. Every tip will improve writing, but if the particular tip in this post doesn’t stick with you, who the heck cares? Keep writing.


Writing Tips Series

Check Your Beginning Words

The first part of this tip is as easy as pie. Although, I don’t really have the easiest time making pie, so perhaps that’s a bad comparison? Maybe the phrase “easy as pie” refers to eating pie, a skill in which I excel. In that case, this tip is as easy as eating pie. Unless the pie is rhubarb, because… gross.

Here’s the easy part of the writing tip: When you finish writing something — a story, a blog post, an essay, whatever — go back and check for repetitive words at the beginnings of your sentences and paragraphs.

That’s the easy part. The next part is a little bit tricky, but not too bad:

If many of the beginning words are the same, it’s time to change up a few sentences to keep the interest of the reader.


I really love pie, but it wasn’t always that way. I was very picky when I was little, and wouldn’t touch pie. I only liked peanut butter pie or chocolate pie. I would turn up my nose if it was a fruit pie, like apple or peach. What was wrong with me?


Using the same word to start each sentence (“I”) makes the reading a bit choppy. If you notice many of your sentences or paragraphs are starting with the same word, pick a sentence or two to rearrange.


I really love pie, but it wasn’t always that way. When I was little, I was incredibly picky and wouldn’t touch pie unless it was peanut butter or chocolate. If it was a fruit pie, you can bet I’d turn up my nose. What was wrong with me?


The paragraph flows a bit better when the sentences are rearranged so the word “I” doesn’t begin each sentence.

  • Try rearranging the order of a sentence.
    • I was very picky when I was little, and wouldn’t touch pie becomes: When I was little, I was incredibly picky and wouldn’t touch pie.
  • Try combining two sentences.
    • I was very picky when I was little, and wouldn’t touch pie. I only liked peanut butter pie or chocolate pie becomes: When I was little, I was incredibly picky and wouldn’t touch pie unless it was peanut butter or chocolate pie.

One more example:

The pies always smelled so good, which tempted me — but I was afraid to try something unfamiliar. The thing that helped me to not be so picky is jealousy. The people around me would be enjoying their pie. I decided I should try it too. The first bite I ever had was heaven in my mouth.


Rearranging a few sentences so they don’t all start with the word “the” will help this paragraph be a bit more interesting.


The pies always smelled so good, which tempted me — but I was afraid to try something unfamiliar. I eventually got over being so picky because I was jealous of the people enjoying their pie around me. Once I decided I should try it too, the first bite was heaven in my mouth.


  • Combine two sentences. And try a different first word.
    • The thing that helped me to not be so picky is jealousy. The people around me would be enjoying their pie becomes: I eventually got over being so picky because I was jealous of the people enjoying their pie around me.
  • Another example of combining.
    • I decided I should try it too. The first bite I ever had was heaven in my mouth becomes  Once I decided I should try it too, the first bite was heaven in my mouth.


Leave me a comment to let me know if this is helpful for you!

Also, I’m now hungry for pie.

Hungry for some grammar? Check out this Easy Grammar Tips page.

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What Not to Say to a Mother of… Just Kidding



Three days before our happy, but failing to thrive, 2-month-old baby was admitted to the hospital. 

I had no grasp of what a long and pot-holey road we were stepping onto last year when my then-2-month-old son was diagnosed with Failure to Thrive and admitted to the hospital. It was a road with no visible end; a road that offered incredible promises just around the bend, but then twisted and turned and morphed into a completely new road with thugs who beat us up and took our money as soon as we reached that bend; a road that just didn’t know when to quit.

That first three-day hospital stay was hell, but it was only the beginning. I remember feeling like I was gaining a new understanding of my fellow mothers who have walked that hospital road – I didn’t know how exhausting a hospital can be even though you’re doing nothing but sitting, I didn’t know how terrified you could feel at unanswered questions, and I didn’t know how isolated you can feel even though you’re being interrupted every 30 minutes. I didn’t know how scared you could be to leave the room to take a shower or eat a meal for fear that your sweet baby would cry and nobody would be there to comfort him. I didn’t know how hungry you could be, and I didn’t know how dirty you could feel after days in that stuffiness. I didn’t know how hard it could be to process what Doctor #1 is telling you after hearing an opinion from Nurse #2 followed by suggestions from Specialist #3. I didn’t know my body could actually heave with excruciating sobs.


Always happy — even with a needle stuck in his vein

And that was only a three-day stay. I remember feeling bad for the friends I have neglected during medical trials, and I vowed to do better with the next friend experiencing something so horrific. I remember thinking that after that stay, if I ever had a friend with a child in the hospital, I would know just how to help.


The next six months were filled with doctor visits full of positive I-can-float-on-this-feeling-forever weight checks, followed by heart-wrenching I-never-knew-a-lack-of-ounces-could-weigh-so-heavy-in-my-soul weight checks. I remember thinking: If I ever have a friend with a baby who struggles to gain weight, I’ll know just what to say.

There were weeks when I was quite literally chained at home to the breast pump, meticulously recording how many ounces my body could produce, followed by bottles of supplementation, followed by breastfeeding to give him every last drop I had. Everything in my life literally stopped as I focused only on feeding my baby boy. And I remember thinking: If I ever have a friend struggling with feeding issues, I know just what I’ll do for her.

There were specialists, a surgery, a doctor change, frustration, exhaustion, lack of hygiene, lack of housekeeping, lack of anything I loved that could make me feel like a real person, tears, tears, and more tears. And I remember thinking: If I ever have a friend experiencing this sort of confusion and frustration, I know just what I’ll say to her and do for her.

But all through that time, there were people who reached out in so many ways. There was so much kindness, I honestly couldn’t keep up. Feeling so grateful for the good experiences I was having in the midst of my turmoil, I began to craft a post in my head: What to say or do for a parent of an ill child.

But then there was the hurt: strangers and non-strangers who said things that cut to my soul, opinions that made me feel judged, people who said the wrong thing at the wrong time. I began to get bitter. I thought to myself: If I ever have a friend going through this, I will definitely not say or do that. I began to craft a post in my head: What NOT to say to a parent of an ill child.

One day, before I could write that snarky post, my sister in law was having a rough day with real burdens. I wanted to make her feel better; I hated that she was struggling. And wouldn’t you know it? Out of my mouth popped the exact words I swore I would never say to anyone; the words that had cut me so bad, that had made me feel misunderstood, that had trivialized my struggle. I stopped myself immediately. “This isn’t helpful at all. Forget I said that,” I bumbled out.

It bothered me so much that I apologized again later, and she laughed at me. “It wasn’t as bad as you’re making it seem!” she said.

But I couldn’t believe I had said the very words I had vowed I would never say. It was my first chance to speak the words of wisdom I had stored up from my experiences, and instead I fell back on the trite sayings people had said to me. How easy it was to say something so thoughtless in my attempt to make her feel better!

While that rickety roller coaster of our family’s life twisted and turned, I knew all along that all of those comments that hurt me came from well-meaning places. Nobody was trying to hurt me. I told this to myself each time a hurtful comment rolled in, and I tried not to let the bitterness overcome me. But I didn’t really get it until there was someone I couldn’t help. It wasn’t until I grasped for anything to say that could help her feel better – and I grasped so wrong – that I realized: Everyone has said the exact right thing; sometimes it just happened to land on my ears at the exact wrong time. And that’s not their fault.

I can’t write that list of what to say or what not to say to a parent of an ill child, because the things that would make my not-to-say list might very well make somebody else’s to-say list. There is just simply no way to get it exactly right because we all deal with sensitive and difficult issues differently.

I know I’ll be a more caring friend when I have a friend go through a heartache, but I also know I won’t do it perfectly. And goodness gracious – I hope she’ll forgive me if I get it wrong.

Maybe that’s the best thing I’ve learned from all of this: Any attempt to help, to show love, or to show caring is right. Even when it’s wrong.


He eventually figured out gaining weight is cool — even if he developed a bit of a bad attitude along the way!

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Grammar is hard. Do you know why? I’ll tell you why — it’s loaded with rules that contradict each other all over the place. Plus, it’s boring. Who wants to pause mid-sentence to look up a rule? Here, I aim to break down grammar rules into quick, easy-to-understand-and-remember formats so they’ll stick in your brain — like gum in your hair. Rule #1: When writing about grammar, a grammar mistake will inevitably be made. Now that I’ve admitted it, it won’t be so terrible when you find one. I don’t know everything about grammar, but I do know a lot. Here’s one thing I know:

Easy Grammar Tips Series

When to Capitalize “Mom” and “Dad”


See those people up there? Those are my parents, Rex and Linda. Aren’t they adorable?

I think they’re quite capital, but they don’t always get to be capitalized. Why not? Well, sometimes they exist as proper nouns, and sometimes they’re just plain-old nouns.

Here’s an easy way to make the distinction:

Substitute the parent’s name in the sentence you’re writing. If you can use the actual name, then capitalize “Mom” or “Dad.” If you can’t, lowercase it is.

Here’s an example:

Yesterday, my mom danced in the kitchen while she cooked dinner.

Try and substitute her name: Yesterday, my Linda danced in the kitchen while she cooked dinner.

Doesn’t make sense, so “mom” is not capitalized. She’s not a proper noun in this case.

But you could say:

Yesterday, Mom danced in the kitchen while she cooked dinner.

This capitalization works because of the substitute rule: Yesterday, Linda danced in the kitchen while she cooked dinner.

Let’s try another:

Friends are always surprised my dad actually slaps his knee at slapstick comedy from laughing so hard.

In this case, “dad” is lowercase because “my dad” is not a proper noun. You wouldn’t say: Friends are always surprised my Rex actually slaps his knee at slapstick comedy from laughing so hard.

But you could say:

Friends are always surprised Dad (substitute Rex) actually slaps his knee at slapstick comedy from laughing so hard.

How about:

The theater was filled with moms and dads, anxious to see their kids perform.

You can’t substitute names for “moms” and “dads,” so use lowercase.


Hey, Mom! Listen up!

You could easily substitute a mom’s name in there, so it’s capitalized.

Now you try!

Using this rule, tell me a funny story about your mom or dad in the comments!

Want to tighten up your writing skills? Check out this Writing Tips page.

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“Adorable” quirks of 1-year-olds

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Is there anything more delicious than a 1-year-old? Obviously not. Is there anything more frustrating than a 1-year-old with an attitude problem? I don’t think so.

Baby Rex is a very confident little tyrant, as sure of his place in the world as a lion on the African Plain. He marches around the house through all his waking hours butting in on conversations, demanding to be noticed. And it’s not like we don’t help with his inflated ego. Everyone in the family thinks he’s the cat’s meow, and treats him accordingly. Should he want something, he need only demand it — loudly. He talks nonstop, but his extreme confidence means he doesn’t bother with pesky things like clarity of word choice.

He assumes we should (and will) understand him because he’s the most important person in the room. Duh.

He’s developed an interesting double-speak language, in which several words have more than one meaning. It takes all five senses — and a healthy sense of humor — to figure out what he’s saying before he erupts at our stupidity for not understanding his “clear” instructions.

Take a gander:

  • No — One would think this particular word has an obvious meaning, especially for a 1-year-old. But for Rex, “no” often means “yes.” Mixed signals? He’s the king of those. This is where a real talent of reading body language is important, if not imperative. If the body language is read wrong, he’ll arch his back. Beware of back-arching. A “no” with a frown is negative… 90% of the time. A “no” with a smile is positive… 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time? Duck and cover.
  • Gokie — This means “cookie.” Or “candy.” Or, “Just give me something delicious… but if you choose the wrong ‘gokie,’ I’ll let you know in no uncertain terms.”
  • Daddy — This means “Mommy.” Of course. Unless Daddy is there, in which case it means “Parent.” But beware the anger if the wrong parent assumes s/he is being addressed.
  • Mommy — This means “Hold me, whoever you are, Mommy or not. Pick me up faster, you dimwit!”
  • Waw — This means “water.” Or “milk.” Basically, just give him something to drink. But don’t choose water when he means milk. Or vice versa.
  • See — This means, “I want to see what you’re doing on your phone right now. No matter you’re looking at a boring email. Let me see it. OK, now I’m angry it’s just a boring email. I will shout, ‘See, see, see’ in increasing intensity and anger until you switch to a picture of me. A picture of a sister might suffice. You’re welcome to try. Want to put the phone away? Good luck distracting me. I forget nothing.”
  • Grunt — This means, “When all else fails, I’ll just grunt until you notice. You’ll ask me what I want, and I’ll let you know by answering with the most obvious of answers:”


What kind of funny double-speak confusion did your 1-year-old put you through?



Utah drivers

Come to Utah, and you’ll be blown away by the friendliness of the people, the clean streets, the enormous mountains, the surprising diversity, the smog so thick you can cut it with a spoon… wait — that part isn’t noteworthy.

But take a ride on any of our lovely freeways, and you’ll be scratching your head. That guy flipping you off for… existing (I guess?) — wasn’t he the same one who sweetly let you cut in line at the grocery store? That old lady who won’t let you in to her lane — wasn’t she the same one who stopped and giggled at your baby?

It’s nuts. Growing up in California, I always heard jokes about crazy California drivers. But every time I go back there, I’m amazed at how easy it is to maneuver through the Golden State. In California, if you need to get off the freeway, you can move to the right lane with only a quarter-mile left. In Utah, you better start thinking about that lane change when you wake up that morning.

When I took driver’s ed, I was told you’re supposed to use the on-ramp for accelerating to freeway speeds. I don’t know what they teach in driver’s ed here, but moseying onto the freeway at 45 is an acceptable — and typical — behavior.

Want to make a lane change? HA! That’s a good joke. It seems every person in the state of Utah believe s/he owns real-estate rights on the freeway. Everyone guards the road in front of and behind their bumpers as if that road is their first-born child. If you want to move in front of or behind them, it’s a personal offense. And they’ll let you know how offended they are by speeding up as you speed up, slowing down as you slow down, and just doing a really swell job of keeping you out of their lane — you know, the lane they apparently purchased with their blood.

And don’t even get me started on the fast lane. (Too late. I’m started.) You and I know that when you’re in the very left lane, and somebody comes up behind you, it is your responsibility to move to the right so the person can pass at a faster speed. Here in Utah, it seems the rule is: “I will travel whatever speed I wish. Deal with it.” 55 is a perfectly acceptable speed for someone to travel on the Utah freeways… in any lane.

And the brake lights — Utah freeways are always lit up like a Christmas tree, whether it’s rush-hour or not. Did you know braking is necessary when you need to change lanes? Me neither, but apparently it’s a vital action. Merging onto or exiting the freeway? Brake. Brake. Brake. Because that makes sense.


It’s a circus out there, and every time you drive on a Utah freeway, you risk losing your sanity. So I had to write a poem about Utah freeways.


The Road I Wish Was Less Traveled

Cruising down I-15 on a bright Utah day
Time to make a lane change — but someone’s in the way
You know how to do this, so “Ain’t no thang,” you think
You get all ready as your signal starts to blink

But uh-oh! You can’t move. The driver shakes his head
You wonder, “Where did that driver take driver’s ed?”
Your next move is to put some pressure on the gas
Now your next-door driver wants to go just as fast

Slowing down, or speeding up — it’s all just the same
You can’t get over; the driver’s playing a game
“I don’t get it — does he think he owns the whole road?”
You shout out loud, while you feel ready to explode

You end up merging without a second to spare
Why is it that driving really feels like a dare?
“What a jerk,” you think. “I’m glad he’s an exception.”
When it keeps happening, you make a thought correction

Now the driver ahead keeps slamming on her brakes
You get so nervous, you’re developing the shakes
Brake lights ahead make you think there’s an accident
Nope. Just merging. You wonder where common sense went

You thought the on-ramp was for acceleratin’
But behind Utah drivers, you’ll soon be hatin’
Normal is getting on the freeway at forty-five
At this point, you wonder how you’re even alive

When you meet the people of Utah, they’re so nice
But begin to drive, and they’ll show their every vice
Nobody gets that we’re all in this together
They’ll cut you off faster than changes in weather

Temple Square, the Wasatch mountains, the Great Salt Lake…
Come visit… If you can leave the drivers in your wake
If driving feels like you’re standing before hell’s gate,
Then I have five words: “Welcome to the Beehive state!”


In an earthquake, you duck and cover. You find a doorway or a table or a desk, and you wedge yourself beneath, cover your bent head with your arms, and hold on for dear life. If you have small children, you do your best to cover their bodies with your own. If your spouse is nearby, you lock eyes in a stare that communicates all your fear, love, and fear, fear, fear. If you’re the praying type, you pray your guts out that the building you’re occupying will hold firm. But there’s really nothing more you can do. You just hold on and wait as the earth rolls and shakes and shudders and bounces beneath you. When the earthquake is over, and you find out it lasted only 15 seconds, you won’t believe it. It surely seemed like eternity at the time.

When you’re sure the earth has stopped moving, you quickly hug and comfort your crying children. Then you venture from your hiding place to assess the damage, expertly scanning for anything life-threatening. You and your spouse divide and conquer. You notice the goldfish has been sloshed to the floor, and you scramble to scoop it back to safety. Stepping over the books that have fallen from their shelves, you rush to check your water and gas lines in case they need to be turned off. You check the windows, mirrors, and dishes to see if any have broken. When you find some shattered glass, you sweep it up, making sure there are no remaining shards to pierce bare feet.

From the moment the earth began tossing you around like a rag doll until now, you’ve been in survival mode. Now that you know the worst of it is over — and nobody is dead or about to die — you can breathe. But only for a second, because the children are still crying — and you really need to sweep up the cat food that tipped over. You scoop a child or two into your arms, and set to work righting all the pictures, putting the books back on the shelves, and pausing to comfort a child who is trying to be brave, but starting to break down.

In the midst of all this, you come across your grandmother’s tea cup. Or what was once your grandmother’s tea cup. It fell from the shelf and shattered into a hundred pieces. You scoop those pieces up, wipe back tears, and finally sit down to just hold your children close. You all cry together until the baby forgets he was ever sad and crawls off your lap to do some funny thing. Soon, you’re all laughing together — trying to forget the trauma.

You don’t have power that night, so you eat ice cream from the freezer before it melts. You light candles and make a party of your survival. You tuck your little ones into bed, but they begin to cry once they realize they’ll be separated from their parents. So you agree to a family sleepover in the parents’ bed.

As you lie in the extra dark night, made darker by the lack of streetlights, the aftershocks begin. Some are so small your children sleep right through them. Some seem like they might reach the intensity of the first earthquake. There’s loud sobbing from your children, and quiet tears from you, as you pray and just wish this will end.

After finally falling asleep, the morning comes — and the aftershocks have ended. You try to decide if you should live a normal day and send the kids to school, or stay home. It’s unlikely there will be any more earthquakes today, so you decide to get back into the routine. Routine feels good.

Routine feels great for a long time, but you worry if you’re missing something. You painstakingly repair your grandmother’s teacup and wait to feel better. But you don’t. Something is still wrong. Then one day, you’re outside weeding the perimeter of your house, and you notice a crack. In the foundation. Panicking, you consult your spouse, and the two of you decide it’s time to bring in professional help. This can be repaired, they say, but it’s going to be a big process.

When the foundation is cracked on the outside of your home, you see, the damage inside your home is magnified. It’s unsafe. You can ignore the crack, but you will see problems — bigger problems — as you go. Or you can suck it up, admit you’re cracked, and get help.


When I was young, I loved the happily-ever-after stories. After killing the evil queen, escaping the abusive step family, or turning from mermaid to human to mermaid to human, life was good. And celebrated. And smiled about. With talking animals, of course!

Now I wonder just how much emotional baggage those Disney princesses brought into their marriages. And were their princes angry at the beasts they had to fight too?

A crisis is HARD with a capital H. It’s so hard, you can only crisis. You can’t live. You can only hang on, duck and cover, and pray for it to end.

When the earth stops shaking, when the gas line has been checked, and the gasping goldfish returned to its home, you think you’ll feel better. Because life is supposed to be happy at that point. Nobody died! Hooray! But you don’t realize the emotional trauma your sweet children suffered, you don’t realize the resentment you feel about what happened to you, and you don’t realize how bad your fingers hurt from holding on so tight until you get the chance to let go and stretch them out — and then you realize they hurt like hell.

And you learn that your routine was only a band-aid. Now it’s time to fix the foundation. You sensed it all along. And while you’re pretty angry about the cost and the process of repairing that crack, you’re also pretty relieved there’s a chance for restoration.

October is Depression Awareness Month. People have no problem talking about arthritis, birth control, or knee surgery, but depression still seems to be something you only talk about when you’re talking about someone else. 

Well, I’ll be your someone else. Depression comes to many people for many different reasons. For me? It’s lurking about because I went through a traumatic time. For me, depression is like the aftermath of an earthquake.

I’m really blessed to have many people in my life who listen to me and care about me. I’m really blessed that I haven’t received any judgment — only support. I’m on a healing path, and that’s why I write this now. I don’t write this to hear condolences or encouragement; I’m past that point. I write to tell you it has been hard. I write to tell you depression found me even though I was doing everything “right.”

And if it’s found you, you aren’t alone. If you know someone who’s been through something hard, offer her your non-judgmental ear. If you’re the one who’s been through something hard, eat the ice cream before it melts — and then go get help. But do it in that order, please. Don’t waste ice cream. =)