816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: Fridge’s board is never boring

“Can we get this?” Noah and I were in a big box store and he was holding a small, magnetic dry-erase board.

Let it be known that I am not the mom who gets her kids everything that they ask for. Even when they fell prey to merchandise displays set at little kid level to take advantage of a parent weakened by trying to forestall her own melt-down, I often said no.

Sometimes I would say yes if 1) Another “no” would send me into a mom-meltdown; 2) I was rewarding good behavior with a bag of M&Ms; 3) I wanted M&Ms.

But the M&M meltdown days are a thing of the past. Not far back enough to be sweet memories, but enough that my guard is down on the few occasions the kids shop with me.

“Can we?” he asked.


“To put on the fridge and leave notes for each other.”

We already leave notes for each other, I thought.

Then I realized that the only notes we leave are of the family administrative variety, not inconsequential quips like the ones on the dry-erase board that was on my college dorm room door.

“No” was on my lips but ideas were in my head. Maybe the anonymity would encourage honest and creative communication. Maybe it would be a way to make each other smile.

Maybe it would be the best parenting tool in the history of parenting tools!

“OK,” I said. “Why not?” Although I could think of one reason why not: Brian.

There are two kinds of people in this world: fridge decorators and non-fridge decorators.

I am a fridge decorator; my husband is not.

While this is far from the only thing that we have opposing views on, it is one area where we have attempted compromise.

I layered photos on fridges for years, but when the cost of a fridge reached the cost of my first car, I conceded to his clean (read: naked and boring) aesthetic.

Then a souvenir magnet came back from vacation with us.

Then the youngest earned two presidential physical fitness awards.

Then a kid and I went into a photo booth.

Then yadda, yadda, yadda…we again have a decorated (read: interesting and colorful) fridge, complete with a well-used, dry-erase message board.

It’s been up for a year now and I can report back that it did not revolutionize parenting, and distinctive handwriting made anonymity impossible. But it did encourage honest communication in the form of:


Boom! You moron! You just got beaned! (one person)

What the (heck) does that even mean? (another in response)

0 days since last Mom freak-out.

I hate all of you.


You can control things your attitude and your effort (Grammar then corrected in different color marker and handwriting.)

Why would anyone eat anything other than breakfast foods? - Leslie Knope


To whoever ate the last piece of cheesecake with my name on it: I will find you. I will (hyperbolized threat of harm) you.

Dammit! Dropped ice cubes go in the sink, not left on the floor! If I see anyone do this I will (hyperbolized threat of harm) you!!

Everyone participated and if there were eye rolls, no one drew them.

Other than the disturbing amount of violent threats and abysmal spelling, the message board made me smile.

It showed me that my kids are smarter than I give them credit for, more insightful than I would have expected and knew more really bad jokes than I knew existed.

What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?

Susan Vollenweider’s fridge is in Smithville. To listen to the women’s history podcast that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com and www.susanvollenweider.com .