My Secret is Out

This being Pride Month and the 2-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on gay marriage, I thought it was an appropriate time to dust this one off from Spitfire Mom and repost it. Two years later I’m more than a little sad about our current presidential situation and do occasionally worry that the good work achieved in 2015 will be undone by this administration. But I take comfort in  knowing that the light and love shared since the decision will overcome any darkness or hate that its opponents spew.

When I was a kid, I had a secret. Not just any old secret. I’m not talking about a crush, or getting a poor grade in a class, or getting caught writing (and misspelling) several curse words to a classmate. All of those things actually happened, and I’d have liked to keep them secret. But my greatest, deepest, darkest, most terrifying secret, one that I would rather die than to tell anyone, was that my mom is gay.

You might be thinking, “what’s the big deal?” With the explosion of rainbows on our Facebook feed over the past ten days, it certainly doesn’t seem like anything of consequence in 2015. But imagine a marginally popular, awkward, brainy girl in rural Minnesota in the 1980s with such a secret. Imagine a new high school freshman girl – quiet, slightly shy, painfully out of place – at an urban high school with that secret. Imagine a smart, headstrong, young woman at one of the most liberal colleges in the nation with the same secret. They were all me, and they were all terrified to divulge my mother’s sexual orientation to anyone.

What if they make fun of me?

What if they don’t want to be my friends anymore?

What if I’m treated differently by adults, teachers – what if they pity me?

What if they are disrespectful to my mother or her partner when they see her?

What if my boyfriend doesn’t want to be with me anymore?

What if people think I’m gay? Read more

Kids’ Summer Reading Challenge

Here we are on the first Monday of summer vacation. We’re all still in bed. The 8-year-old is still asleep (that child will be a caffeine addict before puberty hits if we’re not careful). The 11-year-old is staring at his phone, watching inane You Tube videos and insisting that I watch every other clip. And while I’m sure that the dog smiling at its owner and the baby bear trying to climb a fence and the dog surfboarding on his owner’s back are all completely fascinating…I’m not paying attention. I snap at him irritably because I’m only 50 pages away from the end of my book and I cannot be disturbed.

And what grand plans do we have for our day, you ask? More of this, to be sure. I’ve only had one cup of coffee and I need much, much more. After a few boring errands, number one on my priority list is to get these children to the library. You see, I have a little surprise in store for them: a summer reading challenge. I’ve put together a list of topics for them – 10 in all – that we will spend the next 10 weeks working through. I think a book a week is a good goal for a tween. Younger kids will go through more books, and that’s great. But

I think a book a week is a good goal for a tween. Younger kids will go through more books, and that’s great. Each week we will go to the library, printed challenge in hand, to find a book that fits a particular challenge item on our list. And then we’ll spend the rest of the week reading 30-90 minutes a day to get through it. It’s a lofty goal, but I think we can swing it. And – bonus – if they’re reading 90 minutes a day, so can I! Winning!

So here’s my take on the Tween Reading Challenge. I’ll modify it slightly for my younger son, and I’m also working on a challenge for myself as well.

Sign up for my email list and I’ll send you a copy of the challenge! Please share your ideas for challenge categories and for books to fit the categories too!


Another Year Down

This post about another school year passing by was lovingly first published at the SpitfireMom Society and has been annotated for a two year fast forward and move to Utah. Here I am again. Another year down. Enjoy!

I can’t even believe that I’m typing these words, but, my boys’ last week of school is next week. Wasn’t I just talking about getting kids back into the school groove a few weeks ago? It’s a cliché, but when your kids are in school, the years really do fly by. They grow up faster than you can even comprehend. One minute you’re gently nudging them onto the school bus as a kindergartner, and the next you’re handing over the keys so they can drive themselves to school. (Okay, I’m not quite there yet, but my 9-year-old would totally do it if given the chance.) [2017 note – he’s 11! How the hell did that happen?! And, true to form, he took off in his grandparents’ golf cart over spring break and got “pulled over” by the community safety patrol. LOL – stay away, 16! We’re not ready for you!]

And at the end of each of these blurry school years, I sit back and take stock of the year. You know, in my free time. And what I sheepishly admit to myself every single year, is that I SUCK at this parenting-a-school-age-kid thing in the months of March, April, and May. Read more

Reading with Tweens – Projekt 1065

This post contains affiliate links.

I am a sucker for the Scholastic book fair. I get a little jolt of excitement when I get that email from the PTA telling me the book fair is coming. I sign up for multiple volunteering shifts. I peruse the shelves with my kids nearly every day of the fair. When they ask for thirteen books each and a handful of total crap – pens, erasers, notepads, posters, I cannot help myself. I buy nearly all of it. Because it’s tax free and a portion of the sales goes back to the school! And because I’m a total book junkie. So when Landon handed me a stack of books, a Lamborghini poster and an assortment of junk that would be lost or broken in the next 10 minutes, I didn’t bat an eye. Enter Projekt 1065 and our first installment of Reading with Tweens!

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz is a fast-pacprojekt 1065 reading with tweensed thriller set in World War II Berlin. Michael O’Shaughnessy
is the thirteen year old son of the Irish Ambassador to Germany and his wife, who are spies for the Allies. As he grows they draw Michael into their world, permitting him to join Hitler Youth and assigning him tasks that nobody would suspect a mere boy to carry out. The stakes are raised immeasurably when Michael rescues a downed British pilot – a Jew – and the trio hides him in the embassy. Together, the family and their hidden cargo work to discover the plans for Projekt 1065.

As I mentioned earlier this week, Landon loves WWII fiction. My mom commented (hi, Mom!) that perhaps Landon’s love for the genre is being guided by a certain someone, my grandfather and her dad, who was a military history buff to the extreme. His heroes were WWII generals and that devotion led him to his career in the military. I’d like to think there’s a touch of my grandpa’s love of history in Landon. Another aspect to his interest is likely his Jewish heritage. It’s strangely compelling for a kid (heck, for adults too) to imagine what he would do in the face of such adversity. Read more

Reading with Tweens

*This post contains affiliate links.*

I come from a family of readers. My grandparents, mom, aunts, uncles, and cousins all are voracious readers. Naturally when I had kids of my own, one of my deepest wishes for them is that they would inherit that same passion. We started reading to them at bedtime as babies, and bedtime reading has continued as they’ve grown. But now that they are 11 and 8 years old, the bedtime ritual has shifted so that the kids often are silently reading to themselves. We don’t have the same intimate cuddled up time that we used to when they relied on us to tell the stories.

It occurred to me one night when Landon, the eldest, suggested that I read the book he had just finished, that I could still capture special time with my kids by reading the books they are reading on my own time and then talking about the book with them afterwards. And the idea for the “Reading with Tweens” book club on 5280Mommy was born. Read more

Downsizing (temporarily)

So as I mentioned in my last post, my family has recently relocated to the Beehive State. (It’s okay, I didn’t know that Utah was called the Beehive State either. It has something to do with honeybees and industry and the Book of Mormon – the actual book, not the musical. No, really.) We made this move rather quickly, so we will be living in an apartment for about six months. Although my hubby and I initially recoiled at the thought of downsizing to approximately 1/6th of our current home size, after the first two weeks, I am loving it. Here are the virtues of downsizing your life, even if it’s just temporary. Read more

Change in Altitude

What happens when a woman who names her blog after the altitude of her home city moves away from that city? The short answer is – absolutely nothing – because I’ve paid for this name and damn it, it’s not going anywhere! But alas, I am no longer at or above 5280 feet above sea level. Instead, I’m at roughly 4300 feet. What that means for my daily life is that I don’t start wheezing until I hit a second flight of stairs, as opposed to the first. Winning! What it means for this blog is that my Colorado Adventures will now also include Utah Adventures. And maybe some Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho adventures someday, too. I’m expanding my horizons and yours too! Change is good.

So here’s a quick rundown on the 5280 Family’s change in altitude and attitude (cue Jimmy Buffett):

  • My hubby’s new job is a fantastic career move and awesome opportunity for the whole family. He spotted himself on a billboard this morning! A billboard! With his cute face giant sized looking down at himself. How’s that for surreal?
  • The boys are loving their new school and have made some fast friends already. It only took two school days for the older kid to have desk assignments rearranged because he was too chatty with the kiddo next to him.
  • We’re having fun exploring new restaurants, new stores, and meeting new people.
  • I have only a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment to clean up so there’s more time for writing, reading, exercising and all the stuff I enjoy doing! More on apartment life soon.

That’s it for now, friends. Stay tuned!


Review: Eligible, A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice

I am a lover of all things Jane Austen. Obviously, her books are held in my highest esteem and most treasured spot in my heart. But I also adore movie adaptations, both faithful and updated, books about Jane, her Facebook page, and updated adaptations of her books, told from a modern perspective. So it was with overwhelming enthusiasm that I cracked the spine of Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld.

I like Sittenfeld. Her first book, Prep, was a fast, fun read that I also found smart and painfully reminiscent of my own adolescence. The American Wife had a similar tone and I enjoyed the salaciousness of imagining Laura Bush taking on the challenges thrown at Sittenfeld’s imaginary first lady, said to be inspired by Bush.

So I had reasonably high hopes for Eligible. And I was mostly satisfied. Eligible, subtitled as a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, is set in the author’s hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. (Strike one. I lived in Columbus for five long years – I consider it to be the least of all Ohio evils – and can’t understand why anyone would set a book in Cincinnati. Aside from a pretty awesome use of Skyline Chili, there’s no other utility to the setting.)

EligibleThe sisters’ names are unchanged, to save confusion and brain power, I guess. Jane is approaching 40 and lives in New York City near Lizzy. The girls return home for a summer to straighten out their parents’ affairs after Mr. Bennet falls ill. Half the fun of this book is getting to each well-known plot point and seeing how Sittenfeld deals with it. What is Wickham hiding? What scandal befalls poor Lydia? What could Bingley possibly find at fault with Jane? Why is Mr. Darcy such a douchebag before becoming the world’s most beloved suitor?

Allow me to just throw out some terms and let your imagination run wild: reality TV, in-vitro fertilization, LGBTQ issues, dot-com success stories, booty calls and hate-sex. Intrigued? You should be.

Strike two comes in the telling of this thoroughly ridiculous but undeniably entertaining story. Sittenfeld simply tries too hard to match the flow and cadence of Austen. It’s distracting. The best parts of the story happen when she drops that pretense and just goes with the flow. Case in point – when one of the younger Miss Bennets tells one of the elders to “fuck off” it is just too much fun. You know that’s what Kitty and Lydia were thinking every damn day. It’s gratifying to see it in print.

I’m glad to say there is no strike three, as long as you don’t take the book (or your dedication to Ms. Austen) too seriously. Thankfully, I do not.

Favorite Quotes:

For Christ’s sake, Mary, put a sock in it.

First of all, I’m not gay. And even if I were, I’d rather be a lesbian than a sociopath.

“My dear,” said Mr. Bennet, “if a sock puppet with a trust fund and a Harvard medical degree moved here, you’d think he was meant to marry one of our girls.”


To purchase Eligible, click here

Jane Austen’s Facebook page

Review: My Grandmother Asked Me…

Meet my new favorite author, Fredrik Backman. I’ve read two of his books, the unwieldily titled “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry,” and “A Man Called Ove.” Reading his books is like being told a story: cuddled up on a couch with a fuzzy blanket, your dog warming your feet, fire crackling in the background and a glass of merlot in your hand. The storyteller sits opposite you in an old wooden rocking chair, hand crocheted afghan on his lap, as he lulls you in a gentle half-consciousness with his tales. Even more astounding is that he’s speaking to you in Swedish and yet somehow his story is beautifully translated into gorgeous English words, sentences and paragraphs, as if that’s how they originated.

my-grandmother-asked-me-to-tell-you-shes-sorry-9781501115073_hrMy Grandmother Asked Me is told by seven year old Elsa. She’s an uncommonly bright child and, as many such children are, slightly odd as a result. Her grandmother, more than just slightly odd, is her very best friend in the world. The two of them create fantasy worlds, a secret language, and go on crazy adventures together. And then one day, Granny gets sick.

What follows is a whirlwind in Elsa’s young life, full of tracking down the people Granny has somehow wronged for Elsa to apologize on her behalf. Letters from Granny mysteriously arrive with instructions to Elsa on their delivery. Elsa’s journey takes her to the doors of each resident in their apartment house, where she learns something new about each of them and about Granny. The apartment house is an island of misfit toys – Elsa is faced with sweet old couples, coffee addicts, scary animals, grumpy old men, and the brokenhearted (not all mutually exclusive categories). Read more

Goodbye, Sam

Dear Sam,

I never met you, but a week ago today I sat in a crowded church with your family and friends to celebrate your life. I’ve watched your mom through this process, usually from afar and sometimes up close, and I just had to tell you (although I know you already know) how amazing she is.

I met your mom and your aunt when we were all about your age. In high school your mom was impossibly cool. She was magnetic. She had strong opinions and wasn’t afraid to voice them. You wanted her approval. You wanted her to think you were cool, too. Your aunt, her twin, was sweet, charming, beautiful, and endearing almost to a fault. Your mom was fiercely protective of her, always her champion. As I think about you, it seems that’s how she is as a parent. Fierce, determined, supportive, and strong. During your treatment we had a benefit night at the comedy club in Denver. It was the first time I’d seen your mom since your diagnosis. I told her that I couldn’t believe how strong and amazing she was through such a devastating experience. And she shook her head, as cool as she ever was, and said “I am just a mom. I’m just a mom.”

The night that you passed away, I cried and cried and cried until I thought I didn’t have anything left. You might think it’s strange for a woman to mourn a boy she never met. But it doesn’t matter that I never met you. You are the precious child of someone I spent so much time with. Someone I love so dearly. And so I cried for her. I cried for your dad. I cried for your aunts, uncles and cousins. For your brothers and their families. I cried for your friends, your grandma and every other soul on this earth who loves you.

I cried for all the other parents I know who have lost a child. For the parents of childhood friends who died when we were young, for the parents of a boy at my sons’ school, for Facebook friends and acquaintances who have lost children and babies.

I also cried for myself. It’s a hard thing to admit, but I cried because my kids are healthy. I cried because I have never had to see them go through as much pain as you did. I cried for the desperate wish that I will never have to see them go through what you did. They were selfish and thankful tears. Please don’t fault me for them.

I went to my sons’ rooms and I stared at them. They are beautiful, energetic, sweet, smart, kind and wonderful boys. They are what you were when you were 7 and when you were 10. I saw you at those ages in your life during the slide show at your service. I looked at their faces and I saw them as they were when they were babies. I saw the maturity in their faces, the way they’ve grown and changed over the years. But in sleep they are still my babies. I haven’t talked to your mom about it, but I think in sleep, you are her baby.

Your memorial service was another notch on the belt of your remarkably cool mom. I didn’t meet your dad till the service, but was not surprised to find that your mom chose a partner who is her equal. Your parents spoke about you so beautifully. There were tears, yes, but they held it together like a couple of damned ninjas. I was awestruck at how they could stand in front of a packed church to thank the people who have helped you all, and particularly to thank you for being their son. They were eloquent, beautiful, steadfast and strong as Groot.

I don’t understand, and I don’t want to understand, how a mother can say goodbye to her baby, no matter how old that baby is. I don’t understand how they don’t hide in a closet, shut themselves away from the world, and eventually die from self-neglect. Maybe some of them do. Maybe your mom has had days when she has hidden and vowed to never leave her room. Maybe your mom is having a day like that today. Or maybe your mom is superhuman. Something tells me she’s not, regardless of my decades-long admiration of her constitution. My point, if I have one, is that even if she has days like that, even if the bad days outnumber the good, I somehow know that your mom will be okay. She will find a way to fight those demons, to rise above the grief and live a full life. And it’s not because she’s cool, but because she’s “just a mom.” She will love you and cherish her time with you forever. Because that’s what moms do.

I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you, Sam. From the stories I heard, I know you were every bit as cool as your parents are. You couldn’t have picked better people to be your mom and dad.


Photo art by Casey Kalmes

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