Category Archives: City Life

Parenting Fail: The Litterbug

One of the hard things about being a parent is that you constantly have an audience. And they are paying attention. All the time. I’ve written before about the stupid things I’ve done or said in front of my kids that have come back to bite me. That’s part of parenting.

wpid-img_20150628_181030.jpgThe other day we were riding bike home from Union Station, where we had stopped to play in the fountains and eat ice cream. A favorite Sunday night activity for Sheppards. On the way to the street, I rode by a trash can to throw away the ice cream cups I had in my hand. I hit a bump and one of the itty bitty plastic spoons fell out of my hand onto the sidewalk.

I kept riding.

I left the plastic spoon on the sidewalk three feet from the trash can.

I know, I know. I’m the worst. I should have just stopped, bent down and picked it up.

But here’s the bigger problem.


Big Brother was right behind me. Watching me.

After I dropped it, he started yelling ahead to his dad to stop, because we had to pick up the garbage. Only we didn’t stop. And I told him it was okay, we weren’t stopping, Tim wouldn’t leave us.

“You’re not gonna pick it up?”

“No, buddy, it’s okay. We need to catch up to Dad,” I replied.


We rode in silence for a few moments. Then he spoke again.

“Is littering sometimes okay?”

“Yes,” I answered, then immediately thought of all the times they’ve just wanted to leave their picnic messes at the park. “I mean no. Well, maybe sometimes.” Well no, actually, I can’t think of a time when they should litter. “Um, no, never. Ugh. Nope, I was wrong, I should’ve stopped and got it. That was my bad. Never litter, okay?”


Have your kids caught you littering? Or something else? Want to share your latest Parenting Fail?


Baby, Let’s Get Away

The other day we were further west toward the foothills for a Bible study. When we got in the car and turned toward home we saw our city.


Our city is down there hidden in the brown.

Ugh. Covered in smog. Gross.


This is their reaction to looking down on the city. Clearly they prefer the higher climate.

When I was a kid, living near L.A. I remember some days not being able to see across the street because the smog was so thick. It doesn’t get that bad here, fortunately, I never notice it until I’m away from the city looking back.

And this day, I said, Nope, and turned around, heading toward the mountains.


“Boys, we’re going to spend a couple hours in the fresh air before we head back to Industrial Progress.”


Let’s go play.



 My boys are obsessed with climbing rocks, so we went to one of our favorite spots.



I wasn’t exactly prepared for this mission.


Cute heeled boots. Not so great for rock climbing.

So I begged them not to fall because it would take me awhile to rescue them.


“I’m always careful, Mom.” Riiight.

The sun was shining, the snow was beautiful…

wpid-img_20150114_122827.jpgThe day was perfect.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the housework or laundry that’s not done, or the schoolwork we need to do that I forget to live.

Spontaneity. It keeps us alive. Leave the responsibilities, they will be there when you get back. Go. Go to the mountains, go to the beach, to the museum, to the backyard. Put everything down and watch your kids explore.

wpid-img_20150114_122623.jpgIt’s worth it.


City Life Explored

The suburbs are not for me. If you happily live in the suburbs and have a sense of community there, please don’t be offended, this isn’t about you personally. I’ve had my taste of suburban woes a few times in my adult life and I don’t care to do it again. This post isn’t to tear down that kind of life, but rather to extol the virtues of city living.

Recently I was telling someone how I was feeling frustrated at our lack of a back yard. My main complaint stemmed from the fact that I can’t just open the back door and yell, “Go!” We do have a park right next to our building so it’s kind of like our back yard. The only difference is that I have to go out there too. Let me state this again so you understand my frustration: in order for my kids to play outside (which we usually do one or two times a day) I have to leave behind everything I’m doing to go sit in a park.

However, I’ve just started to realize that this is not a bad thing after all. The thing about living in a city is that there’s a lot of sharing. In previous homes, I have driven around for 10 minutes before parking 1/4 mile away from our building. Shared parking is not my favorite. If you live in the city there is no room for a private pool, so you share with the neighborhood at the community pool. We don’t have a backyard for a jungle gym, so we share with the neighborhood, and the homeless.

Sharing is a good thing even when it doesn’t feel like it. When my boys get bullied on the playground, I have a teaching opportunity. When we are feeling threatened by an inebriated napper on the park bench, it gives me an opportunity to get to know our neighborhood police a little better. And when I have to give up my time so that my boys can play outside it gives me an opportunity to meet other moms and dads doing the same.

I have friends from around the neighborhood that I would never have met had we not been at the park together. And if I see a new friend several times a week we are forced to go beyond preliminary conversation, how are you? What about the weather? How old are your kids? Thus, community is born. My kids see a world beyond themselves and I can build relationships outside of my normal circle. What a beautiful thing!

What do you do to build community in your neighborhood?


This post is dedicated to our other favorite city. Good old Chi-town. “My kind of town, Chicago is…”

Bad Luck July

To forewarn you, I’m not writing this out of a want for pity or well wishes. There are a lot of you out there in worse circumstances than us, and bad stuff happens to us all. I’m writing this out of a need to find humor in the crap life throws at us.

I’m also wondering if any of you go through a week of solid bad luck every once in awhile. We do. It usually happens in July too. Not sure what the deal is with July. When I was a kid I got chicken pox during July. So did my 3 brothers and my little sister. And my dad. Not a good July.

But seriously, sometimes a lot of stuff goes wrong all at once and we look at each other and think, Why? Like two summers ago (during July, of course) when we were working at summer camp and had a hornet nest on the outside of our camper. One got stuck in my hair, got a little angry, and stung me on the left ear. Ouch! Then my ear swelled up. Like, really really big. It was about double the size of my right ear. I have pictures but seriously, I’m not sharing.

So my ear was swelling, and itchy, so naturally I took some Benadryl. Benadryl knocks me out cold and so I slept so hard that I threw my back out and had to leave camp the next day to have an emergency chiropractic visit.

The thing about life is that once you can laugh at something you will survive it. We have been laughing about this past week.

This week was setting out to be the hottest week of the summer. Several days nearing or above 100 degrees were in the forecast. Aaaand our air conditioning broke. We live on a third floor with skylights and a southwest facing wall and windows. It gets hot in here.

Also Tim’s vehicle stopped working and needed a new battery. Down to one car which means we were either stuck at home in the heat or driving Tim back and forth to work, sacrificing nap time.

Several shenanigans later, our A/C is still not fixed and probably won’t be soon. We’ve got a window unit barely cooling us and a million fans running constantly. (Really. A million.) Then, get this, when we went to get a new battery for the one vehicle, the other vehicle died in the parking lot. We needed a new battery for that one too!

I haven’t had Coke in over two months (the cola, not the drug), but I had one that day (because Sam’s Club doesn’t sell cold beer at their concessions). What a week! We are spending this next week in the mountains with family and it could not come at a better time. Bring on the cool mountain air, we’re ready.


I know this is late. June 6 came and went. But we were camping. And fasting. From technology. Not food. So I didn’t have a chance to write this. But I still think it’s relevant.

Friday, June 6, we were driving for hours to sleep on the ground. Under the beauty of the Colorado skies. In the shadows of the mountains. We stopped for gas and food. A man in a wheelchair wheeled past. He stopped and backed up. Looked at us and said, “Do you know what happened 70 years ago today?”

“D-Day.” I replied.

His eyes widened in surprise. Shocked that a young person would know, I guess. “That’s right,” he said, “You know, without D-Day, I wouldn’t be here.”

He then explained. He was born disabled. In any other country, he said, he wouldn’t have been given life. He wouldn’t have healthcare. He wouldn’t be given a wheelchair. A job. A life.

With tears starting, “This is the greatest country in the world. The greatest.”

You guys, we. must. remember. We cannot forget what others have sacrificed. For us. For our neighbors. For those taking refuge here. Things won’t be perfect. But, even a bad day in America is still a good day. Because we’re here. And we’re free.

As the man wheeled away, he turned back. “How did you know that?” he asked.

I thought. I remembered. I thought of my grandfather. Of my father. Of my brothers. My friends. Of their service.

I shrugged. “History.” I said.

My history. And yours.

Ignorance is Bliss

I really love living back in the city again. There is so much energy, different types of people, sirens going off at all hours (my boys love the sirens). There are certain things about living in the city that you learn gradually. Unwritten rules that you pick up on. For example, one very important rule is Don’t Look Down the Alleyways at Night.

Whether you are walking or driving it’s best not to look down dark streets or into dark corners. At best you will see someone peeing. At worst, well, I can’t describe some of the worst things I’ve seen because my children’s grandmothers read this blog.

Just keep your eyes straight ahead. It’s best not to know. I learned this rule when we lived in Chicago. Not only would you perhaps see homeless shenanigans, but you would see Chicago’s most infamous residents: Rats. So many rats. There might be more rats than people there. And they’re big! You make the mistake of peering into the darkness and think to yourself, what a darling kitty rifling through the trash. Then it looks at you. Good Lord, THAT IS NOT A CAT! 

No, not this guy. This guy is adorable.

Yep, this seems about right.








We lived in an itty bitty studio apartment in Chicago. All kinds of creatures lived in that place. Mostly small children. But some others too. One day Tim went down to the basement to get something from the freezer (we had a dorm-sized fridge with a 3 inch high freezer that was always frosted over, therefore we kept our freezer food in the community freezer in the basement). I heard our downstairs neighbor yelling, then Tim’s voice, then some crashing and banging.

“There it goes!” crash “That way!” bang

I went to the stairwell and called down, “Is it a mouse?”

Tim, “…Um…yeaahhh…”

It wasn’t a mouse. It was a rat. A big one. And that was probably the last time I went to the basement.

Another time I was cutting chicken in our itty bitty, galley kitchen and I dropped a big chunk of chicken down in the space between the oven and the wall. It was a pretty big piece. I kept on cutting meat thinking I would get it after I put the food in the oven.

The next morning I woke up and remembered the chicken. No big deal, I thought. It will just be crawling with salmonella and who-knows-what else by this time. I’ll wash my hands really good. So over to the kitchen I go, get on my hands and knees, reach my hand in the small space…no chicken. It’s gone. What. The. Heck. I pushed the oven over an inch or so thinking somehow it rolled (square piece of chicken. right.) under the appliance. No chicken.

You guys, something lived in our apartment that was big enough or hungry enough to devour a 2 inch chunk of raw chicken. Blech! We never found out what it was, probably radioactive cockroaches or something. But you know what? It’s better not to know. That’s why I never look down dark alleys.


Snapshot of My Day: Peace

Today (Sunday) was an absolutely gorgeous day. We rode our bikes down to the river and headed north of the city with the boys in the bike trailer. As we headed back into the city it was beginning to get quite warm and we decided to go all the way in to the Riverfront REI and hit up their Starbucks. We then climbed to the top of the hill on the opposite side of the river and spread out a blanket.


2014-03-09 14.33.40

For a moment we sat in the shade with our cool drinks, addictingly-good Oreos, and drowsy boys.

We looked down upon the river and the hundreds of people walking, riding bikes, tooling on Segways…and it was peaceful.

This is a snapshot I want to remember. Because it won’t always be this way. Experience has taught me that. But if I take life moment by moment…savor the peaceful times…I can deal with the other stuff.

2014-03-09 15.08.10

It didn’t take long for the boys to discover the patch of soil waiting for spring flowers. They dug and played while Tim and I watched from our blanket. This was their project:

2014-03-09 15.25.36

“This empty bottle needs to be filled with dirt. We’re not sure why.”

It was a peaceful day. How was your Sunday?