Mama Told Me There’d Be Days Like These

March 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By Shannon Ralph

bad days

There are days when you think you are actually doing pretty well at this parenting gig. Days when your children seem almost content.Almost happy. Days when you are in the zone—the parenting zone. You all know what I mean, right? Days when you look at your children and you think maybe—just maybe—their financial futures will not be riddled with the pock marks of extensive therapy debt. Days when you see nothing in their future but promise and success and roaring accolades.  Days when their little souls seem at peace and their little psyches intact. All because you are one fucking badass mother.

Then there are days like today.
Days when you forget to dress your children in green because, as a forty-one-year old mother of three who barely remembers to pee most days, you are incapable of remembering a holiday that is synonymous with drunken abandon.  You have no time for green beer. Days when you pick up your eleven-year-old son from school grasping his bicep and wincing in pain. Days when he declares today the worst day. Ever. In the history of days. Days when he says to you, “There is apparently some thing in middle school where people are allowed to punch you if you don’t wear green. Mom, why didn’t you tell me to wear green?” You don’t know how to respond, so you only say, “I’m sorry, son.” Because “I forgot to dress you in green because, frankly, I simply do not have even an infinitesimal bit of available space left in my brain at the moment because I am too busy trying to figure out how we are going to pay for the $7,000 in dental work you are getting next week” seems a bit too harsh.


There are days when your youngest son gets a new video game he ordered in the mail. A video game for a game system you do not own. A Nintendo GameCube video game that he was dying to have and insisted on spending his $30 on despite your warnings that there was no way a GameCube game would play on his Nintendo Wii system no matter what the idiot hacker on YouTube said. His little heart leaps for joy as he tears open the manila packaging. And when it does not play in his Wii system—just as mommy had warned him—he falls into a deep, deep depression. He assumes the fetal position on the couch and refuses to speak for an hour or so until he falls asleep. When you wake him for dinner, he refuses to eat. When you put him in the tub for bath time, he once again assumes the fetal position—under water this time—taking on the appearance of a disturbingly large, scrawny fetus. Now he is in bed. Moaning. That his eye hurts. And his leg hurts. And his penis hurts. You discover, to your utter disappointment that the apple does not fall far from the tree. He is an emotional hypochondriac in much the same way his momma is an emotional eater.


There are days when you say the unthinkable to your daughter. Days when (after enduring a visit from your homeowner’s insurance adjustor, and a couple of long calls with your banker, and a pamphlet in the mail about your 20th—TWENTIETH!!—college reunion) you look your beautiful, happy, enthusiastic daughter in the eye at ten minutes to eight o’clock and you actually say, “Please, Sophie. Please, for the love of GOD, find something to do for the next ten minutes that does not involve being right in my face.” There are days when your daughter calls you mean. And slams her door. And refuses to kiss you goodnight. And flings her skinny little body on her bed with the force of F5 tornadic winds.  There are days when you know you are a shitty parent. You just know it in your gut the same way you know that you need to put down the fucking Oreos and eat something green.


But now that everyone in the house is mad at you—with the exception of the dog, but she’s not very bright—you are going to bed and putting this horrible day to rest.


Tomorrow is a new day.

You can read more by Shannon Ralph on her blog

Photo Credit: Rob from Flickr images

The Question of Kissing Your Children

March 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By Shannon Ralph


Every morning on my way into work, I listen to NPR on the radio. Yes, I am one ofthose people. As a matter of fact, any time I am in the car—with the exception of when Ruanita is in the car with me because she doesn’t put up with my pretentious shit—I listen to NPR. In my defense, I watch very little television—with the exception of BBC programming (God, I sound incredibly white and remarkably old)—so I get most of my information regarding news and current events from the internet and the radio.This morning was an exception to that rule. For the first time in 2014, the air temperature is expected to climb above freezing here in balmy Minneapolis. It’s practically going to be 40 degrees today! I was feeling particularly festive this morning as I thought of pulling my flip-flops out of hibernation. MPR’s coverage of the crisis in Ukraine simply did not match my festive mood, so I turned to my 2nd favorite radio station to listen to a little Katie Perry.The disc jockeys (is that still what they’re called or am I simply bolstering my geriatric white woman status?) were prattling on about a survey of listeners they had done the day before. The question up for debate was this:

Do you kiss your children on the mouth?

The overwhelming consensus among Twin Citians was a resounding no. Apparently, it feels “awkward” and “weird” and “uncomfortable” to kiss one’s children on the mouth. Rather than singing loudly off key to a little Katie Perry “Roar” on this bright and sunny morning, I am now questioning whether or not I am an abhorrent deviant.

Shit. Not the plan, people. 

Okay, so let’s be honest. I kiss my kids on the mouth. And often. I also kiss them on the cheeks and on the tops of their heads and occasionally on their hands. When I do kiss them on the mouth, it is not a lingering kiss. There is no swapping of spit. No tongue action. There is nothing remotely passionate about the kiss. It is a peck usually followed by a big hug as they are rushing out the door to school or climbing under their covers for the night.

I do not find it awkward. Or weird. Or even a little bit uncomfortable. We are an incredibly affectionate household. We snuggle while we watch TV. We hold hands when we walk through Target. My 11 year old son still climbs in bed with his mommas for a little bright and early “Lukie sandwich” loving on Sunday mornings. Does this make us deviants?

We are all human beings. And humans crave the touch of other humans. The touch of another person makes us feel alive. It makes us feel secure. And loved. And protected. And honored. It makes us feel safe in an otherwise scary world.

Why would I not want to give all of this to my children?

I would argue that there is nothing even remotely sexual about kissing your children on the mouth and that avoiding it for fear of sexual subtext is unhealthy. It is sexualizing something that is in no way sexual. That, to me, is “awkward” and “weird” and “uncomfortable.”

Europeans kiss everyone on the mouth. It’s a symbol of affection and nothing more. And they possess an infinitesimally tiny percentage of the American hang-ups and prudishness revolving around sex. Further proof that I should have been born British, but I digress.

So are Ruanita and I truly in the minority here? Do you kiss your children on the mouth? Is it weird?

And more importantly, where the hell are my flip flops?

If you would like to read more by Shannon Ralph, check out her blog
Photo Credit: Leonid Mamchenkov

When Your Child Tells You They Have No Friends

By Shannon Ralph

Lesbian mom

“I don’t have any friends.”

The air leaves my lungs all at once in a violent burst, as though I have been punched in the abdomen. I grip the steering wheel tightly and keep my eyes on the broken white line running down the middle of the road. The dirty slush lining the streets of our modest neighborhood is an indicator that spring will soon arrive in Minneapolis.

“What do you mean, Nicholas? Of course you have friends.”

“No, he doesn’t.” Nicholas’ twin sister pipes in from the booster seat adjacent to Nicholas. “He doesn’t play with anybody at school.”

“How would you know that, Sophie? You’re not even in his class.”

“All the first graders have recess together.”

“Do you not play with your brother at recess?”

“Sometimes I do. Most of the time he doesn’t want to play.”

Here we go again. Talking about Nicholas as though he is not sitting right here in the minivan with us. As though he is not present. He has gone missing again.

“Why don’t you play with your sister, Nicholas?”

I glance in the rearview mirror. Nicholas is staring out the window. His petite features and wispy blonde hair are reflected in the window against a background of white and gray. Everything is white and gray in March. Nicholas appears deep in thought. I wonder briefly where he goes when we all forget he’s there.

“Nicholas?” I say again.

Sophie kicks his foot across the space separating their bucket seats. “Momma’s talking to you, Icky.”

Since she first learned to speak, Sophie has referred to her brother as Icky. It’s not a commentary on his cootie status, but rather a simple mispronunciation of Nicky. I find it simultaneously endearing and aspersing. Nicholas has ever seemed to mind.

“What?” he asks, his forehead pressed against the window. He doesn’t look at me.

“Why don’t you play with your sister at recess?”

“I don’t know. I don’t want to.”

Of course he doesn’t want to. He’s a six year old boy. Why would he want to play with his sister and her friends? But what about the boys? Why doesn’t he play with the boys?

Nicholas has never been like other little boys. He’s not your typical rough and tumble boy’s boy. He is the baby of our family—three years younger than his older brother and one minute younger than his sister. Nicholas is the runt of our litter. He is the child I have always worried about the most. Though I love my children equally, he tends to require more of my time. More energy. More focus. More patience.

Even before he was born, I worried about Nicholas. I had vivid and disturbing dreams when I was pregnant with him. In all the dreams, his sister was perfectly normal and he was born with one debilitating disease after another. Or he was missing limbs. Missing organs. Or he was simply missing.

“Who do you play with, Nicky?” I ask.

“No one,” he says. “I like to sit and watch.”

And that sums up my youngest son. A watcher. An observer. A bystander.

“I’m worried about Nicholas,” I say later that evening as I climb into bed next to my wife.

“So what else is new?” Ruanita replies.

“No, I’m serious. I don’t think he has any friends.”

“He’s young. Lucas didn’t really have friends until he was in the 3rd grade.”

“I know, but I think Nicholas is different.”

Ruanita lays the book she is reading on her chest and looks at me over the top of her glasses. “Shannon, you worry entirely too much about him. He’s perfectly fine. He’s a happy boy.”

“I know, but I can’t help it.” I climb into bed, kiss Ruanita lightly on the lips and rest my head on my pillow. I watch the shadows on the wall cast by the ceiling fan dancing in the pale light coming from Ruanita’s bedside lamp. After a few moment of silence, I turn to Ruanita.

“Do you think Nicholas is gay?”

She does not look up from her book. “I don’t know. Does it matter?”

“No, of course it doesn’t matter.”

“Then why worry about it?”

“I don’t know. It’s harder for gay men.”

“How do you figure?”

“People can be cruel. Girls can be cruel, but boys—”

“Things are changing, Shannon. It’s not like when we were young. I mean, we’re actually getting married next summer. Did you ever think that would happen in Minnesota?”

“I know things are changing. But are they changing fast enough? Fast enough for Nicholas?”I grab the book from Ruanita’s hand and lay it on the bed between us. “I’m serious. The world is full of monsters. Wild things, like in that book Nicholas loves so much.”

“Yeah, but the world is also full of good people. Nicholas is a sweet boy. He’ll be fine.”

“But how can you be so sure?” I feel tears welling in the corner of my eyes. I don’t want to cry. Ever since my son spoke the words “I don’t have any friends” that afternoon, I had been in a state of acute turmoil. Was it my fault he had no friends? Was it something I did? Or didn’t do? Am I too dismissive of him? Not encouraging enough?

“Listen, Shannon.” Ruanita looks me square in the eye. “You sound like one of those idiots who blame themselves for their kids being gay.” I flinch at her accusation, but Ruanita continues undeterred. “Nicholas is going to be who Nicholas is going to be. You can’t change him. You can’t make him into something he’s not. He’s a good kid. A smart kid. He is going to be perfectly okay.”

“Are you sure?”

“No, I’m not sure.” Ruanita reaches for my hand and squeezes it tightly in her own. “I am not sure about anything. But I’m hopeful.”

I lie in bed and consider her response. I know she is right. I must have hope.


It’s really the only thing we have to hang onto as parents. We hope that we are doing right by our children. We hope that we are not screwing them up beyond all recognition. We hope that our insecurities do not become their insecurities. That our missteps do not become their missteps. We hope that they grow to be better people than we think we are.

And, above all, we hope that the wild things of this world are gentle with the little people we so ferociously adore.

You can find more from Shannon on Chronicles of a Clueless Mom


Who’s the Boss?

March 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By Shannon Ralph

Boss the adjective

This week, I am coming to the stunning realization that my eldest child is no longer the adorable little boy I first fell in love with. No, my son is a middle schooler, and suddenly the entire world is “boss.”

Lucas is definitely boss. His brother is usually boss. His sister is occasionally boss. Fried chicken is boss. Coke is boss (though he is rarely allowed to drink it). Video games are boss. Video games where lots of random stuff blows up are especially boss. Most people on television are boss. Even the dog is boss on occasion.

I am not boss. I am the epitome of anti-boss-ness, apparently.

And don’t be a total dweeb and say that someone is a boss. Boss is not a noun. Boss is an adjective, idiot.

The closet correlation for the word “boss” that I can come up with from my own vernacular is the word “rad.” I remember thinking lots of things were pretty damn rad back in the day. Kirk Cameron was rad. I mean, obviously. Recording songs from Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 onto my portable tape recorder was pretty rad. Ralph Macchio in The Outsiders was rad. And if we got married and he took my last name instead of me taking his—because we were going to be, you know, like, a progressive 1980s couple—then he would be Ralph Ralph and that would be SO RAD. Molly Ringwald was one rad redhead in Sixteen Candles. She was even more rad in The Breakfast Club. By the time Pretty in Pink came out, I was dying my hair red and trying the Molly pout on for size (strangely, it looked better on her). Huarache sandals and Sun-In were pretty rad. Lee Press-on Nails were also rad. Standing in the television department of our local K-Mart watching the video to Thriller for the first time (we did not have cable…hence, no MTV) was a life-altering rad moment. Footloose was the best movie ever made. It was so rad, it was practically tubular. Oh…wait…maybe that was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Regardless, I experienced many rad things in my adolescence. But being rad is now a relic of the past. These days, I now know, the term is boss.

Here are the things—at forty-one years old—that I find extremely boss.

Sleeping past 6:30am is boss. Peeing without an audience is boss. Children bathing themselves is pretty boss—even if I have to threaten to smell them afterwards to “make sure.” Strawberry margaritas are boss. As is strawberry cheesecake. The BBC is boss. Ignoring the strange noises coming from my basement playroom because I am lounging on the couch in a kid-free living room is pretty boss. Re-watching episodes of Sherlock on Netflix while the kids dismantle the basement board by board is somewhat boss…if I don’t allow myself to think about the whole basement dismantling thing. Telling the kids in no uncertain terms that I will NOT be downloading Minecraft onto my new iPhone is boss. Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks are boss. Being finished with my Christmas shopping a month early is boss. Restaurants that do not have chicken fingers anywhere on the menu are boss. Movies that have no ties to Pixar or Disney are pretty boss. Nights without 5th grade homework are Über boss.

And whether my son agrees or not, I like to think I am pretty damn boss!

When I am not busy being so bodaciously rad, that is.



A Mommy Cautionary Tale

September 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph


Something happened this weekend—a lifetime first. (Well, actually, not a real first, but the first time this particular thing happened in 37 or 38 years.)

I pooped my pants.

Yep, you read that correctly. I realize this is probably entirely too much information, but I think it is life-altering enough to include it on my blog. In itself, the poopy pants were a completely explainable event—and I will explain it in a minute. I think the big picture, however, is symptomatic of a larger issue—the demise of my forty-year-old body.

So I took my daughter to Carter’s on Saturday afternoon. She needed some fall clothes because she outgrew every single article of clothing she owned this summer and, frankly, I can’t pass up a good sale. Carter’s has everything on sale right now. (Seriously, check out their website.) So we headed to the Carter’s store in Bloomington.

As soon as I got on Highway 494, I remembered that Ruanita had casually mentioned that they were doing construction on 494 this weekend. There were signs, but I saw no construction. As a matter of fact, there was very little traffic and we flew down the highway with ease.

While shopping at Carter’s, my stomach began to cramp. Then it cramped some more. Then it cramped rather painfully. Then it hurt like hell—a telltale sign of an impending bowel event of magnificent proportions. I tried to think of what I had eaten that would upset my stomach. For breakfast, I had eaten some cheese crackers and a Diet Pepsi. Then my sister had brought me an iced white mocha from Starbucks. I had skipped lunch.

Nothing screamed of dietary stupidity. Though cheese crackers and a Diet Pepsi wasn’t exactly a breakfast of champions, it was unlikely to cause the type of gastrointestinal issues I was experiencing.

I quickly paid for Sophie’s new clothes and shuffled her out the door.

(On a side note, this is why I typically do all of my shopping at Target and/or Kohl’s—the close proximity of bathroom facilities wherever you happen to be in the store. When you are forty years old, these are the kinds of things one must consider.)

We hurried out of Carter’s and I hopped (or rather, slid like a palsied Mermaid with my legs tightly pressed together) into the car. I should have stopped at the McDonalds that was right there. But that particular McDonalds is kind of, sort of difficult to get in and out of since it sits in the middle of a shopping center parking lot. So I decided to get out the rather congested Penn Avenue area and stop at a nearby restaurant with a restroom. Arby’s…Wendy’s…I wasn’t picky.

As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, I realized that I was in trouble. The onramp to Highway 494 was closed. As were all the onramps to 494 in the Bloomington corridor. I tried to take a different route, but apparently every single driver in Bloomington that day had the exact same plan. I ended up on a frontage road with about one hundred other cars.

Not moving at all.

The cramps intensified. I broke out in goosebumps all over my entire body. I prayed the Our Father. I prayed the Glory Be. I tried to remember the words to the Act of Contrition, but eventually said screw it. I even threw in a few Hail Marys for good measure. Mary was a forty year old woman once—she had to understand.

I repeatedly told Sophie, “Mommy’s got to go to the bathroom.” “Mommy’s going to die.” “Oh God…mommy’s in trouble.”

Sophie was—and this is why I love that little girl with every fiber of my being—entirely supportive. “You can do it mommy.” “It’ll be okay, mommy.” “We’re almost there, mommy.”

Then it happened. Just a little bit, but entirely enough.

I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stop it. I was ill.

Sophie responded with a simple “Gross.”

I eventually made it home, cleaned myself, finished my business, changed my clothes and made it to pick up Lucas from his choir rehearsal with three minutes to spare. My stomach was a mess the rest of the day, though I never figured out why.

To say that it was a disturbing turn of events would be a gross understatement. It is, however, not entirely shocking. It is endemic of a problem with which I am having difficulty coming to terms.

I am getting old.

Not granny old. Not rocking chair old. Not afghan and fuzzy socks old (though I am a big fan of both). But I am aging.

Since turning forty last October, I feel like I have fallen apart.

Suddenly, I pee on myself when I cough. Or laugh. Or do not run to the bathroom the instant the urge hits. I have plantar fasciitis and walk like a cripple. I have arthritis in my big toes. My knees creak. I fart when I bend over. Fried food does me in. I am on medication for high blood pressure. I sweat all the time. Adult diapers are rights around the corner.

I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that I need to lose some weight. But I find it odd that it all began when I turned forty years old.

I am not forty years old like 1960s-era forty year old women. They’re children were grown. They could sit home and bake pies and have Tupperware parties and watch their “stories” on daytime television. They could spend the day in their “housecoats” if they wanted to.

Not me.

I have a full-time job. I have a partner who occasionally wants to see me. I have little kids. I have 5th grade homework to deal with. And zoo trips. And visits to the park.

I can’t be old. I can’t drive around the metro area shitting my pants. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Something is going to have to change. It’s time to dust off the treadmill. Pull out the vegetables. Table the beer and wine. If my body is going to fall apart, it’s going to have to work a little harder to do so. I’m not going to make it so damn easy.


This is not going to be fun.


The Pierce-Ralph Family-Do we change our names now that we can get married?

August 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph


I was asked an intriguing question this week. Completely out of the blue and totally unexpected, Ruanita (a-little-too-casually) asked me the following:

“So…do you think we should hyphenate our last names after we get married?”


To be perfectly honest, this had never occurred to me. Amazingly—despite the tornadic whirlwind of wedding planning and re-planning I have done all alone in my bustling little brain—the question of changing my last name never even crossed my mind.

Here’s the thing, I experienced a bit of buyer’s remorse sixteen years ago when we had our illegal (I like to use the term “ illegal” because it makes us appear much more hip and dangerous than the bland couch-huggers we really are) commitment ceremony. At the time, we decided to keep our own last names. Actually, I don’t know if we ever even consciously made that decision. We just did it. Or rather, we just didn’t do it. Probably out of simple laziness.

Looking back now, I wish we had changed our names. Or at least that one of us had. Ruanita has never been very keen on becoming Ruanita Ralph (I don’t blame her…sounds like your everyday 8th grade dyke P.E. teacher, doesn’t it?). I, however, would have no issues with being Shannon Pierce. It just didn’t occur to me at the time.

When Lucas was born, because Ruanita and I did not have the same last names, we made the rather innocuous decision to hyphenate his last name. He became Lucas Matthew Pierce-Ralph. Not an altogether bad name.

If truth be told, however, I despise hyphenated names. I don’t know why. I know some perfectly lovely people with hyphenated last names—including two who were expelled from my very own vagina. (Okay…that is a lie. They were born via c-section, but “expelled from my own horizontal lower abdominal incision” doesn’t have quite the same pizzazz.) But I still hate hyphenated names.

As such, I really have no desire to hyphenate my last name. I mean Shannon Pierce-Ralph wouldn’t be so bad, I guess. I could get used to it. But there is still the “ick factor” with hyphenated names that I can’t get past.

I think I am just old fashioned. I firmly believe the members of a family should all have the same last name. That is so very anti-modern of me, I know. But I can’t help it. I am a product of my homogenous 1970s Southern Catholic school upbringing. I went into a mild mourning state when my mother remarried for the first time years ago and was no longer a Ralph. I’m a Ralph. She’s my mom. Logic would dictate that she should be a Ralph, too, right? Today, she is Shirley Marie Hardesty Ralph Robbins Bauer Ralph. Why can’t everyone just be a freaking Ralph?

As you can imagine, the fact that my children have hyphenated names bugs me. Besides the fact that they do not have the same last name as me, I am kind of saddened by the fact that I can’t buy any of the cheesy monogrammed stuff that places like Oriental Trading Company sells. You know, those wooden plaques and Christmas ornaments and tote bags and door knockers and mailboxes that say:

Pierce Family

Est. 1997

I can’t buy those because we’re not the Pierce Family. And we’re not the Ralph Family. We’re not even the Pierce-Ralph Family. My kids are Pierce-Ralphs, but I am not. Ruanita is not.

This is one of those instances—few and far between—where I would like to go back in time and make a different decision. Given the option of a do-over, I would have become Shannon Pierce sixteen years ago. My kids would be Lucas, Sophie, and Nicholas Pierce. We would have been the Pierce Family. The Pierces, Established 1997. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Alas, I am not a Pierce. And neither are my children. We already have three people in my family with hyphenated names I do not care for. Why add two more to the mix? And I don’t think my kids would be keen on changing their last names now anyway. I mean, my daughter spent the last year of her life being referred to as Sophie P.R. in school because there were three other Sophies and/or Sophias in her class—so much for original naming. (As a side note, why she would not be Sophie P. instead of Sophie P.R. is simply beyond me. I mean…what the hell?) I think my kids like being Pierce-Ralphs. At least, they’ve never complained about hyphenated names. I am pretty sure, like so many other instances, I am the only one with an issue here.

And, aside from the psychological toll of changing a ten-year-old’s name, can you imagine the bureaucratic nightmare legally changing five last names at once would be? I don’t even want to think about it!

So do I want to hyphenate my last name? No. Do I want the members of my family to all have the same last name? Yes. Is one possible without the other? No. Am I shit outta luck? Yes.

There you have it.


My Son is Lazy

August 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph

050My son is lazy.

These are not my words. They are his. If you ever want to feel like a loser mom, try having your seven-year-old son cry hysterically in Target because he thinks he’s lazy.

The conversation went a little something like this.

Nicholas: It’s only three dollars. Why can’t I get it?

Me: Because you don’t have three dollars.

Nicholas: Why does Sophie get to get a toy?

Me: Because Sophie has worked really hard and earned the money to buy a toy.

Nicholas: (tears welling in his chocolate brown eyes) I’ll never have any money.

Me: Sure you will. You just have to do some chores and you can earn some money just like Sophie.

Nicholas: But I can’t do that.

Me: Why not?

Nicholas: (full-on crying now) Because I can’t.

Me: Yes, you can. You are smart and capable. You can earn money.

Nicholas: (still clutching the $3 toy) No I’m not. I try to do chores, but I can’t.

Me: What do you mean?

Nicholas: I mean… (sniffle)…I start to do chores, but then I always end up lying on the couch.

Me: Why do you do that?

Nicholas: (hugging the $3 toy tightly to his skinny little chest) Because I think I want to do chores, but then when I do them, I figure out that I don’t like it. So I lay on the couch.

Me: I don’t like chores either. Most people don’t—except maybe your other mom. But it feels really good to earn your own money. Wouldn’t you like to earn the money to buy you a toy like Sophie?

Nicholas: Yeah, but I can’t.

Me: Yes, you can.

Nicholas: No, I can’t. (dramatic sigh) I’m just lazy.

Me: (stifling a giggle) You’re not lazy, Nicky.

Nicholas: Yes I am. I just lay around all the time doing nothing. I play video games and nothing else.

Me: (treading carefully so as not to destroy my child’s fragile ego) There’s nothing wrong with playing video games…you enjoy video games. That’s okay. But it’s important to work, too. You can work AND play.

Nicholas: But I’m lazy. I’ll always be lazy.

Me: I don’t believe that.

Nicholas: I do.

Me: You’re not lazy. I don’t want to hear you saying that. You are a smart, capable boy.

Nicholas: No, I’m not. (pause for dramatic flair) I’m just a lazy bum.

I have to say that it bothered me a tad that my son thinks he is a lazy bum. In all honesty, his flair for the dramatic is a bit overdeveloped. AND he really wanted that toy and was probably pulling out all stops when it came to “playing” mommy…but still. No one wants to hear her child belittle himself in the toy aisle at Target. Target is a place for coffee and casual strolls and smiles and love and laughter and unabashed joy. Am I right?

So I had an ingenious idea. I would “help” Nicholas reach his chore-completely potential. I turned to that most sacred of all mommy tools—the chart. I have to say that I was pretty damn proud of the results. I created a magnetic chore chart that had a column for each of my three children to track the chores they completed in a week. Next to the chore chart on the wall hung a baggie full of magnets. Each magnet listed a chore and a dollar amount. The child could choose what chores they wanted to complete based on how much money they would like to earn. Once completed, they would place the magnet on the board in their column. At the end of the week, we would tally the amount they had earned and that would be their allowance. On average, the chart would allow the kids to earn about $5 a week in allowance. That seemed perfectly reasonable to me for two seven-year-olds and a ten-year-old.

Freakin’ genius, am I right?

Or so I thought. I did not, however, take into account the fact that my daughter is a workhorse and my sons tend toward gross under-achievement. Their desire for money is trumped only by their desire to sprawl on the couch and do a whole lot of absolutely nothing.

Right now, our chart looks a little something like this:


Perhaps my son was right, after all? Maybe his declaration of his laziness was a truly insightful comment rather than a thinly-veiled ploy to guilt momma into buying him a tiny plastic Angry Birds figurine that would only enhance the hoarder-esque vibe of his bedroom. Maybe Nicholas is lazy.

I should maybe work on that, huh?


A Rather Fragrant Mother/Daughter Date Night

August 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph


Puppies are adorable. They are cute and cuddly. They are little four-legged, round-bellied, wrinkly lumps of love.

At least in theory.

In reality, as my daughter and I came to learn last night, puppies can be quite a pain in the ass—or, more literally speaking, a pain the fingers and toes.

Yesterday, Sophie and I found ourselves in the unusual position of having an evening alone together. Ruanita was working until midnight, so I was poised for another night of single parenting bliss. With a heat index of 100 degrees, we would be trapped indoors. My night was looking like a veritable cornucopia of pleasure—laundry, fish sticks, dishes, and arguments over the iPad, DS, television, Wii, and cell phone. My excitement level was through the roof, as you can imagine, when a phone call put a sudden wrinkle in my planned evening of euphoric domesticity. My mom invited the boys to spend the night with her.

There it was. My escape! My Hail Mary Pass! My Calgon-Take-Me-Away moment!

I did a little jig right there in my living room braced myself against the maternal longing to have my children near and elatedly reluctantly agreed to part with the boys for the evening, leaving Sophie and I the rare opportunity for a mother/daughter date night.

What to do….what to do….?

The possibilities were endless. We could go get pedicures. We could go to a movie. We could go to Yogurt Lab and fill up on toppings galore. We could go to the Mall (this momma likes to shop and hadn’t been to the mall in months and months). Oooh…and there is a Long John Silvers in the food court at the mall! My night was definitely looking up!

I asked Sophie—because, you know, it was all about her—where she wanted to go for our mother/daughter date night (hinting heavily at a fried food orgy at the gargantuan Mall of America). My daughter would have no part of it. I even offered her a trip to the American Girl Doll store. (Why the hell can’t my daughter play with dolls like other girls her age??) She couldn’t be swayed. She simply did not want to go to the mall.

Instead, my daughter batted her long eyelashes, smiled the sweetest little smile her seven-year-old facial muscles could muster, and asked me to please, please, please take her to the Humane Society to see the puppies and kitties.

So rather than domestic (air-conditioned) bliss, we spent the evening in the smelly kennel area of the Golden Valley Humane Society. Though the adoption center is air conditioned, the runs where they keep the dogs are not. Despite the roar of multiple fans, it was pretty damn hot in there. And the heat intensified the smell, which needed little inflation to knock an adult woman to her knees.

Luckily, we did not spend much time in the kennel area. Rather, we took individual pets to the personal “play” rooms that the Humane Society has. Basically, glorified closets with benches to play with the animals and get a feel for them prior to choosing a pet to adopt.

Sophie was immediately drawn to one of two bulldog puppies. A pudgy little brown and white female named Jane. I have to admit she was pretty dang adorable. All belly and wrinkles. She was just barely eight weeks old, so had probably just been separated from her mother. And she was a ball of energy that Sophie was in no way prepared for.

Jane chased Sophie. Jane jumped on Sophie. Jane nipped at Sophie—her legs, her toes, her finger. And Jane had tiny razor-sharp teeth that Sophie was not expecting. Jane was nothing short of canine hell on wheels—er, paws.

Our too damn long brief visit with Jane ended with Sophie in tears, cradling a red, punctured hand against her chest and me trying unsuccessfully to contain a wiggly nine-pound pooch who had, by the way, peed in the corner of our small closet playroom and proceeded to prance through it while attacking my daughter. And did I mention that she chewed on my favorite Keen sandals—an unforgivable offense no matter how cute you are!

We played with a few more dogs, including a beautifully docile and cuddly three-month-old Coonhound puppy named Bree. She was a doll and I would have taken her home in a skinny minute had I not known full well that Ruanita would have kicked me, Sophie, and the dog out on the streets. The thought of sharing a cardboard box with Sophie and a Coonhound didn’t really appeal to me, so we said a sad farewell to Bree and all the other malodorous mutts at the Humane Society.

Did I get Long John Silvers for dinner? Nope. Sophie won that debate, too, and we ended up at her favorite dinner joint—Carbone’s.

Despite the date night itinerary that would certainly not have been my first choice for a free evening, we had a wonderful time. My daughter is one amazing little girl with feelings and ideas and opinions that are so quintessentially “Sophie” it takes my breath away. Last night was one of those a-ha moments that happen in parenthood. One of those moments where you find yourself drawn out of your usual domestic drudgery and see your child. I mean really see your child. I saw Sophie last night in all of her seven-year-old awkward, beautiful, shy, giggly, independent, tender, clumsy, needy, intelligent, engaging glory.

I am one damn lucky momma!


Summer Amusement Park Survival 101

July 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Family

By: Shannon Ralph
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If you ever want to feel your age—I mean really feel every minute of your forty years in your bones and muscles and tendons and slowing deteriorating brain cells—I suggest you take your energetic, skinny little children to an amusement park that you have not been to since you were twelve years old.

When I was a kid, the company my dad worked for had their annual picnic at an amusement park across the Ohio River from my hometown in Santa Claus, Indiana called Holiday World. Back then it was Santa Claus Land, but they have since changed their name to incorporate Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Fourth of July-themed areas. We went there every summer when I was a kid. I had the best time riding all the rides, eating all the treats, and picking out Holiday World souvenirs. It was heaven in small-town Indiana.

The whole family with Santa.

We’ve never taken our children there before, but for some utterly inane reason (I blame my overly-enthusiastic sister-in-law), we decided to take them this year.

As expected, the kids had a blast. They loved the place! They rode rides, they ate Dippin’ Dots to their hearts content. They picked up grab bags and “mood” jewelry. They laughed as all the adults got drenched on the Ragin’ Rapids ride. Holiday World was everything to them that it was to me thirty years ago. Watching my kids trot around with rainbow lollipop residue covering their faces, I was there with my dad again. Holding his hand. Giggling as he got wet. Posing in front of the ancient Santa Claus statue with him. Sweating in the 97 degree heat as we listened to Christmas Carols blaring from loud speakers. For the first time since arriving in Kentucky last week, I felt my dad’s presence. I felt at home.

That is not to say that my Holiday World experience was the same as it was when I was ten years old. Far from it. For one thing, my ass barely—and I mean jammed-in-barely—fit on some of the rides. And thirty years ago, the 97 degree heat barely registered on my radar. This time, I was five seconds away from a debilitating heat stroke the entire day. Seriously. At one point, I felt more than a little faint standing in the shadow of The Legend roller coaster.

The twinnies with their “unicorn horn” lollies.

Speaking of The Legend—it is not the largest roller coaster there, but it has got to be the most traumatizing ride in the place. It is a wooden roller coaster that does nothing short of beat the hell out of you. I was almost in tears by the time it was over. And when I got off, I could barely walk. I have apparently—unbeknownst to me—developed a bit of spin-induced vertigo. For a good half hour after riding that coaster, I walked through that park like I could easily blow a 0.12% on a breathalyzer.

And on a somewhat related note, my twins are both apparently 47 inches tall. I know this because one must be 48 inches tall to ride most rides at Holiday World unaccompanied by an adult. Since most rides also seat two people, that meant that Ruanita and I were riding a lot of rides with Sophie and Nicholas. And every single ride they were tall enough to ride (some of the rides required that you be 48 inches tall to ride at all), spun in circles. Fast circles. Of course, the kids loved it. The mommies? Not so much. Ruanita and I walked around that park in a constant state of white-faced, nearly vomitous squeamishness. Good times!

So here is my advice to other forty year olds attempting to relive the glory days at the amusement park of your youth: Don’t do it. Should you ignore my advise and choose to do it anyway, I would suggest that you bring the following essentials with you:

  • A wheelchair – Those concrete hills get to be a bit much
  • A portable oxygen tank – You will need it, trust me
  • A large dose of Dramamine – For spin-induced vertigo
  • A tub of wet wipes – To wipe away your sweat and tears
  • A mask – To hide the shame caused by jamming your forty-year-old curves into those six-inch metal seats
  • An energetic 16-year-old – To ride the rides with your children, thereby reducing your diagnosable amusement park medical complications to mere heat stroke

If you follow these suggestions, you may—just maybe—survive your trip down memory lane.


I Wonder

June 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph


I have come to the conclusion in recent weeks that my youngest son may just be gay. Or not. One or the other. The important thing, of course, is that I love him regardless. But I am beginning to wonder.

Why do I think my son might be gay?

Well, there are several reasons and every single one of them is a broad, sweeping generalization about gay men. Of course, all stereotypes have to have an infinitesimal grain of truth to them, right? Or else, how would they ever come to be broadly (and unfairly) accepted to apply to an entire group of people? So while the below list may be ripe with stereotypes, they do have me wondering about where my young son will eventually fall on the gay/straight spectrum.

1. All of his friends at school are girls. He gets along better with girls, as he seems to have little in common with rough and tumble seven-year-old boys. “Rough” and “tumble” are words that would never be used to describe Nicholas. As a matter of fact, the vision of Nicholas “tumbling” with anyone makes me smile. His twin sister could totally kick his ass.

2. He told me recently that there is a “boys” table and a “girls” table at lunchtime. He is the only boy who regularly sits at the girls table because, frankly, he says the boys’ table smells. The heady testosterone-infused aroma offends his delicate sensibilities (that is not a direct quote), so he prefers to sit with the girls.

3. He wanted, and of course received, a yoga mat for is birthday. In what was, by far, the strangest conversation I have had in a good long while, the gay boy stocking shelves in the yoga aisle at Target gave us a knowing look, a wink and a nod as he told us, “You two look like you would be the accepting parents I always wished I had should your yoga-loving (wink, wink) son one day tell you he is gay.”

4. He effusively tells his sister how beautiful she is. Often. As a matter of fact, I have a picture of Sophie as the wallpaper on my phone, and just yesterday Nicholas was waving the phone around to anyone and everyone who would look saying, “Now this is what true beauty looks like!”

5. He is overly effusive about everything. Seriously. Everything. Every tree is the most beautiful tree he has ever seen in his life. His blanket is the warmest blanket he has ever felt in his life. Every grilled cheese sandwich I make his is the best grilled cheese he has ever eaten in his life. Every puppy is the cutest puppy he has ever seen in his life. I want to say, “Dude. Everything can’t be THE BEST.”

6. He is incredibly orderly. There is a place for everything and everything is in its place. Though his bedside nightstand may look like something from a particularly horrifying episode of “Hoarders,” he knows every single thing that is stored there. God help the poor soul who makes the egregious mistake of thinking his Dum-Dum wrapper collection is trash!

7. He is particular about his clothes. Whereas I believe his older brother, Lucas, doesn’t even see the clothes we hand him to put on each morning, Nicholas is quite selective about his clothing. And he has a style that only be described as Nouveau Nicholas. Though it has been known to occasionally involve tube socks and crocs, I see a possible designing career in his future.

8. He helps his sister pick out her clothes. And of course, everything she puts on is “fabulous.”

9. He is the biggest cuddler we have and constantly tells us how much he loves us.

10. I come from Kentucky where every young boy gets sheered like a sheep come summertime. My hometown is rampant with skinny little knobby-kneed boys running around with buzz cuts this time of the year. Nicholas, however, is quite fond of his hair. Whereas his older brother cares not at all about the shape of the hair on his head, Nicholas likes his long. He likes to be able to brush his bangs from his eyes with a mere whip of his head. He likes it hanging over his ears. He does NOT, however, appreciate being called a hippie—a fact I earned the hard way.

11. He gets his feelings hurt easily. Every perceived wrong is met, not with loud arguments, but with quiet tears that he tries his best to blink away before they are noticed. But I notice them. His other mom notices them. And they worry us.

How will our sweet, gentle, effusive, beauty-loving, oddly particular, someone rigid little style maven be accepted by the world? Will he be considered “weird?” The world is changing, but Nicholas is growing older every day. Is it changing fast enough for him? Wherever he ends up falling on the sexual identity spectrum, I will always and forever adore him. And like every mom who ever wondered “maybe…?” I will pray every night for a more accepting, tolerant world.


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