Dear Fortnite…

Dear Fortnite…

THANK YOU.

No seriously. As as a working mom with a 14-year old, I have to be honest and say that I am actually grateful for the game that has kept my son from going absolutely crazy with boredom all summer. So, thank you.

Look, I get that I’m supposed to be frustrated and angry about the amount of time that my son has spent in front of the TV with a controller in hand and a headset on his head, but truthfully? In this weird stage where he is too old to have a babysitter and too young to have a job, Fortnite has been the one thing that has kept us sane all summer.

I mean, I totally get that there should be limits on screen time, and I get that it is completely horrific parenting to allow your child to sit in the basement all day when the sun is shining...but that is why we have summer rules.  Here they are:

1. Read for 30 minutes
2. Go outside for 30 minutes
3. Do some sort of chore that will help you be a productive part of the family
4. Do…something.

I know.
I’m the queen of parenting…and A VERY OBVIOUS FAILURE.

OR…maybe I’m just like every other mother in America, working or not, who is trying to keep their shit together as they raise their families.  Seriously, between taking care of the home and making sure that our kids are kind, friendly, smart, athletic, and in line to win every possible scholarship available to them…it’s no wonder we’ve resigned ourselves to allowing our kids to play Fortnite for 4 hours in a row (or 6) while we binge on The West Wing and Grey’s Anatomy…or even a series of completely mindless romantic comedies on Netflix…WE ARE FREAKING EXHAUSTED.

But aside from the resignation…there are some very obvious benefits to the video game that has taken over our lives:

1. Fine Motor Skills: Every single day this summer, my son has clicked buttons and moved levers on a controller…and for someone who has struggled with fine motor skills since he had to learn to tie his shoes in Kindergarten (seriously…I put him in Velcro shoes everyday, but the teacher insisted he learn to do his laces!) this is pretty much like physical therapy.

2. Academics: Let’s be honest, anyone that can spot a moving bush from 100 yards away and choose exactly which weapon to use that will shoot at the right angle to make a kill while also accurately calculating the speed of an approaching storm to the nearest second has exactly enough Algebra skills to start high school this week.

3. Physical Activity: Some of you may remember the incident in which Carson pulled his hamstring because he jumped up a little too quickly when getting an 11 kill win.  So it’s basically like he’s working out every day, and that’s all that any mom can ask for.

4. Social Skills: I’m going to be honest, at first I was distraught about the fact that Carson was playing Fortnite FOR HOURS ON END…until I realized that he was playing with his same friends over and over again…and I know these parents…and their kids seem normal…mostly. So if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

It’s been a long summer, and whether or not you are a working mom or mom that stays at home, I know we can all agree that sometimes our kids need some form of entertainment that is not us…and if they can calculate a storm rate and talk with their friends at the same time…well, that’s just a bonus.  And seriously, it’s not like my kid didn’t do anything all summer…I mean he played a billion hours of baseball (you can read about that here) and he read a few books…and yes, ok, I paid him money for each book…and yes, he spent said money on X-Box gift cards to buy skins and seasons having to do with Fortnite (I have no idea what that means).  But if that’s what it takes to get him to read, then I’ll stock up on the gift cards and put the controller in his hand over and over again.

Look, parenting is tough.  And to be honest, as much as I love sleeping in and having more freedom to my day, I’m ready to seal up the X-Box, make a half-healthy lunch, and send my kid off to school.  I’m ready for him to spend more than 30 minutes outside of the house and read more than 30 minutes a day…but while he was home during the endless days of his 14-year-old summer…I’m just thankful that he had Fortnite to keep him company. So yes…

Dear Fortnight…

THANK YOU

Freshman year, here we come!
From a grateful and ready for the school year Small Town Girl

How to Parent Your College Kid

Just kidding!  I would be completely horrible on giving advice on parenting your college kid, because let me be honest… I AM FAILING FABULOUSLY AT THIS.

Seriously, I have no idea what I am doing.  Not a freaking clue.  This period of life feels much like driving through a tunnel with a blindfold on, and I have no idea where I am going. Currently it includes lots of prayer and lots of wine and lots of praying while drinking wine.  It involves conversations about sex and drugs and vaping and alcohol and pornography and Jesus, most of which make me uncomfortable and my child annoyed.

But seriously, how do we do this? How do we get through this stage of life without completely falling apart?

I remember the first night that each of my kids actually slept through the night, and I remember thinking…”I will never have to wake up in the middle of the night with my child again!” And then they leave for college…and I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if they remembered to say their prayers and who they are hanging out with and are they eating healthy and ARE THEY GOING TO BE OKAY?

Nothing really prepares you for this stage of life.  Last weekend as I dropped of Kaitlyn at Alma College for her sophomore year, and drove away, I couldn’t help but panic that I had probably done ALL THE THINGS WRONG.  Like, all of them.  I fed her too much gluten, and gave her too much independence, I let her wear leggings to school, and I didn’t check her homework enough.  I’m sure there was a day…or two…where I probably forgot to pray for her, and I’m stressed out about how that might have affected her.  If only I would have hit my knees two more times in her eighteen years, I’m sure she would be fine…but now…well, who knows.

Saying good-bye for another year.

There’s a reason that all of those mommy blogs out there stop right about the time kids become independent and head off to highschool…it’s because every single one of them is in shock and has no idea what type of advice to offer.  Seriously, think about it…there are blogs to help parents decide on disposable versus reusable diapers, how to handle a strong-willed child, and how to create adorable back-to-school crafts to make your child feel loved.  But then those kiddos head off to high school and college, and we’re left to wonder if maybe we should have just breast-fed a little bit longer or invested more time (or any time at all) in the school Valentine’s party to ensure that they would become healthy adults…and all we can do is wait for a text or snapchat that says, “yes, I’m fine,” which makes us panic even more. FINE? What the heck does that mean???

Watching the kids grow up and move on is hard. So hard.  But I guess that’s the point, right?  I took Kaitlyn to the doctor the other day and it went like this:

Doctor Rush: Mom, aren’t you proud of the very adult way that Kaitlyn is handling this issue?
Me: I am…but I’m feeling a little bit unneeded here *awkward laughter to make it seem like I was joking…even though I wasn’t*
Doctor Rush: That’s the sign of a good parent…they raise adults.  Our children already know how to be kids, they don’t need parents to teach them that.

BOOM.  Mind blown.

We are raising adults.  And that’s really all we can do, right?  We try to choose the right diapers and the right meal plan (Gluten-free? Keto? Dairy-free?) We try to remember to occasionally buy vitamins and put our kids in all of the sports that they want.  We sit through performances, give them car keys, let them go on dates, and drive them to college, all the while crossing our fingers and praying fervently that they’re ok.  And they are.  Mostly.

Kaitlyn and her awesome roommate Kelsey adulting.

But sometimes they’re not so ok, too.  Some days they will call crying, and some days they will be angry, and some days you won’t hear from them, and some days they will make very bad decisions that no amount of prayer and crossed-fingers could have prevented.  So here’s my advice…because I don’t know any other advice to give…and even if I did, it would probably be terrible.  So this is it…all wrapped up in one tiny thought…all we can do is be there. No matter what. 

I know.  It’s not profound.

But honestly, all we can do is be there.  Because on their good days they’re going to need a cheerleader, and on their bad days they will need someone to bail them out of jail…and on the days in-between, they just need to know that someone is there…on the other end of the phone…or the other end of Snapchat…just to hear them say that they’re fine.  Which probably means they’re ok, and maybe it doesn’t…but either way, we’re here for the good and the bad…and we’re watching them become adults in the process…and like Dr. Rush said…that’s something to absolutely be proud of!

With Lots of Love from a sad-but-proud-of-her-college-kid Small Town Girl

Up North

Every good Michigander understands the term “Up North.” It’s one of any various locations somewhere north of Grand Rapids or Muskegon (depending on which highway you are on) where trees replace buildings, lakes replace parking lots, and fresh air abounds. It’s that place where families go to camp or hike…or in our case…rent a cottage on a lake. (Seriously…who on earth came up with the actual camping-in-a-tent idea?!)



“Up North” has become our end-of-summer tradition…and it’s a weekend in which we get to break all of the rules that guide our daily lives. No one brushes their teeth or applies deodorant, and even though we all bring more than one outfit, we really mostly just wander around in the same pair of shorts that we showed up in on the first day. We eat loads of carbs, drink before any socially acceptable time, and watch hours and hours of Impractical Jokers…even when we should be out in the sun.

We fish and jump off the boat in the middle of the lake (even the parent who is typically way too stodgy to indulge in adolescent fun) And sometimes we nap.
But lest you believe that we are a perfect family, with perfect vacations…let me clear the air. It’s not always unicorns and rainbows. There’s the night that one of my kids (accidentally/on purpose) slapped the other one across the face. And the boat ride in which we realized that are kids still are not the kind of kids to share their hopes and dreams…but instead prefer mono-syllabic answers to our probing questions:

Me: Are you excited about school?
Child #1: No
Me: Have you chosen your minor?
Child #2: No
Me: How do you feel about your schedule?
Child #2: Fine
Me: Do we need to get you anything before school starts?
Child #1: Can we not talk about this right now?

And they get annoyed when we want them to actually participate in family life…and boat rides end up including someone reading, someone sleeping, someone driving the boat, and someone trying desperately to find any bars of service available. There were moments when Chris and I would just look at each other and roll our eyes…and wonder what we did wrong…and why other people’s kids love them more…but then one of them would ask us to go fishing with them…and all was right with the world.
“Up North” is also a place where the passing of time becomes more evident than ever, and that’s the hard part. You notice the changes as the kids grow from year to year. There’s less splashing and more fishing, fewer games and more sleeping. And of course…this year one of the kids has new metal on their teeth and one has new metal on their belly button…so there’s that.

The cabin trip isn’t just our farewell to summer, but our farewell to another year. And that’s what makes
it bittersweet. Next week we will ship one kid back to college and the other starts baseball again.
I head back to school and Chris’s days become longer and fuller. So this is our last hurrah. And this
year, like every other year, as I made the final bed and folded the last towel…as Chris did the final
walk-through and loaded up the car…I cried.

A LOT.

Because “Up North” isn’t just a place for camping and hiking and renting a house on a lake…It
isn’t just the trees or the water or the fresh air. It’s the place where your daughter learns to drive
the boat (sometimes without her dad giving her step-by-step directions) and the place where your son
unhooks bluegill from the line for his sister (even if he’s just accidentally/on purpose slapped her
across the face). And it’s the place where you’re reminded about what it means to be a family…with unicorns and rainbows…and without. It’s the place where your kids grow up and despite their proclivity to use mono-syllabic answers, become the best versions of themselves. So until next year…when one or more of our children may be sporting new pieces of metal on their bodies, or need more sleep than sunshine, I will hold on to the memories of this weekend and remember that no matter what changes throughout the year, and how many different directions we’re pulled. We always have “Up North” to bring us back together.



With lots of love from an Up North kind of Small Town Girl



Small Town Workouts

Yesterday I ran to the bookstore.  No, I literally ran.  Like, on my feet running.  And it went well for about a block and a half, and then I remembered that I hate running.  Like really, really hate it.  I mean, when I first start running I feel great…my arms are pumping strong, my legs are moving at a steady pace, I’m wearing cute running clothes…and then my body realizes that I’m trying to burn some calories and it is like, “Not today, Satan!”

I was on a workout kick there for awhile, but it’s been a few weeks and it’s become obvious that a few weeks is definitely a few too many.  Seriously, How is it that it takes 21 days of working out and eating healthy to lose 5 lbs…and 1.5 minutes and a 1/2 a glass of wine to gain it all back??

I have run the gamut when it comes to working out.  I was on the Fit Body bandwagon for a while, and let me tell you…I.LOOKED.FABULOUS.  But, I mean, what do you expect when you pay so much money to work out that you can’t afford groceries? So, while my body is bummed that I’m not getting yelled at by trainers every day, my bank account is grateful.

And most recently it has been Beachbody, which was also great…but then my subscription ran out and it’s been way too much work to log back on and re-enter my credit card number.  And also, there are those tiny little containers that you are supposed to put all of your food in.  ALL. YOUR. FOOD.  Have you seen the size of those containers? I can pretty much fit a grape and half an asparagus in those stupid containers. So yesterday, I ran.

Objects in this photo are smaller than they appear…much smaller.

Here was my plan:

1. Run from my house to the highway (.455 miles)
2. Take a break while waiting for the light
3. Run from highway to bookstore (2.11 blocks)
4. Take a break while looking for books
5. Run from bookstore to highway (2.11 blocks)
6. Take another break while waiting for light
7. Run home (.455 miles)
8. Drink LaCroix

This plan was a sure fire way to get me to run almost a full mile with a few stops along the way, but here’s how it really happened.

1. Run from my house to the highway (.455 miles)
2. Light is green…can’t take a break because people might see me stop
3. Run to bookstore (2.11 blocks)
4. Bookstore is closed
5. Swear under my breath…keep going because no good excuse to stop
6. Run to other bookstore (1 block)
7. Also closed
8. Give up on life and walk home (approx. .5 mile, but who’s counting anymore?)
9. Drink LaCroix

Working out is hard.  Not really the working out part, but the thinking about working out part.  It takes approximately 3 hours to get up the energy to do a 30 minute workout (or a 1 mile run/walk) and most of the time there is something more interesting to do anyway…like watching Netflix…or watching paint dry.  And in this day and age there is always the excuse about having body confidence and loving yourself just as you are…which is all well and good when you can zip up your pants, but is less-so when your favorite pair of jeans leaves seam-marks on your thighs when you sit down.  And although there are lots of great solutions for healthy eating, let’s be honest, even Halo Top isn’t as diet-friendly when you eat 2 pints in one sitting.

My very empty, very delicious Salted Caramel Halo Top

So for now, I’ll run…probably.  Or maybe not.  It’s possible I’ll just think about it for 3 hours and then enjoy a pint of Halo Top, which really, is about 250 calories less than regular ice cream…which pretty much equals working out.  I mean, I’m no mathlete, but that right there seems like reason enough to stay on the couch.  Or…if by some act of God you actually see me running…and then stopping to catch my breath…and then walking and acting like everything is ok…feel free to pass along a thumbs up…or offer me a ride home.  Either way, I’ll be grateful!

With lots of love from a needs-to-work-out-more Small Town Girl
And just in case you need some extra motivation…here’s a running playlist to save your life!

Small Town Celebrations

If you’ve never been to the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival, you are probably 1 out of 0 people because let me tell you, this week there are all the people in the whole entire world gathered in my hometown for this festival.  Seriously.  ALL.THE.PEOPLE. 

And here’s the thing, when all the people in the entire world gather in a small town, there should be perks for those of us that live here every other 51 weeks of the year.  Seriously, like priority parking or at the very least priority happy hour at the bar that you visit EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK.  But no, instead, Judy from Nebraska gets priority seating at the bar on Wednesday night while Jenn from Grand Haven is stuck waving at the bartender from afar, pouting because ALL.THE.PEOPLE are in her spot.

I mean, there was a time when I loved Coast Guard Festival, (don’t believe me? check out this post from 2013) with its kid’s day and its colorful cobra roller coaster and its cotton candy food trucks…and then one day I realized that I had turned into a grandpa and I was saying things like (insert crabby old grandpa voice here) “these teenagers need to put some more clothes on!” and “can you believe the traffic around here!” and all of a sudden I realized that I was old.  Like too old.  And too crabby.  So this year we went down to the carnival to give it another shot…

And nope…still old and still crabby.  But here are 3 things that I learned:

1. Nobody under the age of 19 actually wears clothes anymore.  I get it, I definitely sound like the oldest freaking person in the world, but honestly…here is a PSA to all 16 year old girls during Coast Guard Festival…put some clothes on!  Look, I realize that you have recently pierced your cute little belly button and you want to show it off, and I also realize that your breasts are still perky.  But for the love of god…please stop running around downtown in your bikini.  Seriously. People are eating.  I understand that we have a beach.  And don’t get me wrong, I am all about wearing a bikini on the beach, in fact, I am a bikini-wearer (look, I have a long torso…don’t judge.) But I wear it ON.THE.BEACH.  Not running around between carnival rides and into the shops.  The beach ends right about Butch’s Beach Burritos…heck, I’ll even give you all the way down to Dairy Treat.  But for the love…put some clothes on before running around downtown…you look trashy.  And also, stop vaping.

2. The sidewalk is just as dangerous as the middle of the road.  Probably more so because at least the road is blocked to all engine-run vehicles.  But the sidewalk? That’s where the danger lies, with its skateboards and its bikes and its stressed-out stroller-pushing moms.  And it’s definitely not a good idea to try to start a conversation with the person who is walking next to you, much less hold their hand.  Because there will always be a person coming from the other direction (probably on wheels) who will glide right between you like you don’t even exist.  And having a 3rd person try to walk and talk with you? Don’t even try it.  Here’s our attempted conversation from this week:

Me: *holding hands with Chris and looking over my shoulder* So how was work?
Kaitlyn: *three steps behind* It was fine.
Me: *still trying to look over my shoulder* What?
Kaitlyn: *three steps behind & shouting* IT. WAS. FINE.
Me: *Squinting my eyes at her to try to hear better* WHAT?
Kaitlyn: *sighing* Never mind

It’s fine, we got caught up as we ate at the picnic table in front of the food truck.  But again, in true grumpy-person fashion…there were so many people on the sidewalks that having a conversation was more work than it was worth…and holding hands with Chris while walking…well, that was fine until a skateboarder slid right through us.  I mean, of course I gave him my best evil eye…but he didn’t notice at all which was even more irritating…because what is a good evil eye if no one even notices?

3. And finally, socializing is awkward.  No, really.  Because when ALL.THE.PEOPLE. are gathered in one place, you are sure to run into one or two or fifteen people that you know…and it’s always difficult to figure out exactly who gets a wave and who gets a hug.  Just this week I stopped to say hi to someone who proceeded to hold out their arm to gesture to the great things happening around them, and I mistook it for an invitation for a hug.  So I went in for a hug, which caught them off guard…and needless to say, ended in one of those awkward half-body squeezes.  On top of that, there are those people that you run into because you’re friends on social media but have never actually met them in real life.  Like, “Oh, there’s Susie’s cousin on her mom’s side whose son just moved to Aruba and whose dog just had surgery!” But then you just walk past with an awkward look at each other because you can’t actually remember their name.

Image result for handshake or hug
Thank you Anna Kendrick for understanding this so well!

Coast Guard is the time of year that all Grand Haveners either love (the rides, the food trucks, the friends) or hate (the parking, the people, the traffic).  But regardless of what side you’re on, whether you’re a die-hard Coastie or a grumpy old codger, like me, I think we can all agree that we are grateful for our Coast Guard men and women, and all of our armed forces who fight to protect our country, and I guess if we have to put up with bikini tops and crowds and even awkward side-hugs with people who don’t really want them, then that’s the least we can do to say THANK YOU!

With lots of love from a grateful Small Town Girl