Category Archives: kiddos

Letters to a Tall Girl: Part III – From Mom

Dear Little Boo Boo Pumpkin Pie Monkey Face Bubby Bear,

First off, just so we’re clear, I will be calling you by some terribly embarrassing variation of the above FOREVER. In front of your friends. In public. On your wedding day. I’m your mother and, last time I checked, it’s illegal if I do not.
Moving on…

When you were about two years old a pediatrician examined your growth chart and remarked, “We can’t accurately predict these things, but at this rate she’s going to be a six=footer.” I joked that it must have been all the non-organic apples I fed you. We laughed (because growth hormones in food is always funny) and that was that. You were always going to be tall. You were always going to look a year or two older than you truly were. I predicted you’d pass up my 5 ft. 7 inches by age 13, but I was off by two months. You hit 5’8 last Halloween, and you turn 13 this Christmas Eve. And, though you’re excited to be a for-real-deal teen alas, you are way less jazzed about being a long, tall drink of water.

It prompted me to seek the counsel of family, friends, acquaintances and a few well-meaning strangers, as something of a birthday present to you. Please do not panic. You’ll still receive things you actually want for your birthday. It’s only that, any time you express feeling ugly, foolish or awkward, and I tell you that you’re not just beautiful and brilliant, but also a truly elegant light in a world that so badly needs it, you reply, “Well, of course you’re going to say that. You’re my mom!” Which is something I said to my mother, and she said to hers, and so has been the dialogue between mothers and daughters since time immemorial. But I’ve problem-solved it for us! I’ve gathered the opinions, advice and encouraging words of others. Non-biased, non-parent entities! I didn’t even have to pay them to say nice things about you, nor are any of them known liars. And, they most definitely are not just saying it because they’re your mom. Accolades don’t get more legit.

In their messages, I noticed a lot of mention of boys and how your advanced height may or may not relate to them. But there’s something more to be said about your fellow females, other than the annoyance of being taller than the munchkinlandish petites among them. You’re a middle school pro by now, thus you know just how vicious girls can be.  To be considered beautiful, in our society, the only things that can be big on a woman are her eyes, her lips, her boobs and – as long as her waist is “itty-bitty” – her butt. Maybe also her hair, dependant upon the year/decade. But big feet, big hands, big thighs, big waist, big nose  or – worst of all – big brains, and the overall message a girl receives is that she’s somehow less feminine and far from pretty.

For as long as I’ve roamed the earth (all these 37 years), the ideal female has been presented as one of little stature; both in physique and power. She is cute, dainty and sweet. And, while no one is knocking cute, dainty, sweetness, it’s certainly not a mold we who make up the entirety of the “fairer sex” can reasonably strive for. But a lot of us ladies do; enough to support a whole plastic surgery industry. It’s tough enough to be female in a world where girls have always been (quite literally) beat down. It’s much worse when they’ve been conditioned to compete with one another over beauty bragging rights. But, it’s nothing short of awful when your female peers serve as your harshest critics.

Now, since there is so little about your personal appearance that one can easily pick on, (“omg, like….your hair is so…..thick, silky and golden….and your teeth are, like, SO….perfectly straight and dazzlingly white…..”) your advanced height will most assuredly be a mean girl’s bitchy “go-to.” All the more reason for you to own those wonderfully long inches of yours – whatever the end length turns out to be. Don’t let some shallow, snarky, beauty-vlog-brainwashed viper get under your perfectly even, peach-toned skin. And believe me, sweetheart, I know that’s so much easier said than done. But practice makes perfect, and the earlier you practice fending off a-holes, while accepting and eventually celebrating yourself, the better!

Long mommy lecture in closing (dad was way more to-the-point….first time for everything), no one is asking you to be a grown up about all this. You are allowed to moan, grown, whine and pout – you’re a teenager. I’m not going to reprimand you every time you complain about your height, or your weight, or your skin, or how you look terrible in a picture. Complain away (within reason…on days that do not collide with mommy’s premenstrual stabbing syndrome), just as long as, at your core, you know this: you are imperfectly-perfect,  divinely adorable, and 100% worthy of loving yourself. ALL of yourself.

One last morsel of motherly wisdom: should you ever find yourself romantically interested in someone who has a “thing for asian girls” …..RUN.
Just run.
So far away.

I love you.
Right up to the moon and back.

-Mom

GraceInUpwardMotion

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Letters to a Tall Girl: Part II – From Dad

Dear Maddy,

I can’t tell you what it’s like to not be tall.  I’ve always been tall.  It’s not always easy – clothes are too short, there’s not enough leg room, people always assume you play basketball, you have to be careful so you don’t bang your head or strain your back.  But you know what?  All sizes have their pros and cons.  And very often, human beings want to be what they are not.

My sister had super curly hair – so she wanted straight hair.  You will find that many short people wish they were taller.  Some things we can change to a degree – hair color & length, body weight, getting a tan – but height is not one of them. (Well, shorter people can wear heels or platform shoes.) If you’re tall, you are going to stay tall.  It’s part of who you are; your genetics.  Embrace it.  Be closer to the sun and the stars.  Raise your head and breathe deeply from the clearer air only tall people can reach.  Help shorter people when they need it – change a light bulb, get something from a shelf, look for their friend (or yours) in a crowd.  Hopefully, they will return the favor by crawling under the table to retrieve something you dropped or shoveling snow.

When you are old enough to sit there, you should always try to get an exit row on airplanes – they have much more leg room.  When you have a car, you will need a bigger one for the leg and head room.  Guess what?  Little sporty cars may look “cool”, but bigger vehicles hold more friends and family and stuff from your latest shopping trip.  They are more comfortable on road trips and generally safer.

You have to take fewer steps to get anywhere.  People will literally look up to you (and quite often figuratively too).  Your long arms will give more hugginess to your hugs.  Your high-fives will be higher.  When you are older and out with your friends in a crowded place, you will be able to see them easier, and they will be able to find you quicker.  You will almost always get to sit in the front seat of other peoples’ cars; that is a generally accepted social benefit of being tall.

Sometimes being tall will be awkward, or uncomfortable, but you will get past that.  You are tall.  It is part of who you are.  Accepting that and being comfortable with who you are leads to a happier outlook on life.  It’s not worth being worried about it; your height is here to stay!  Stand up straight, be proud, never let any bring you down for being what you are, and enjoy being a wonderful, lovely, sweet tall young woman.

Lots of love, always,

Dad

GraceInUpwardMotion

Letters to a Tall Girl: Part I

My daughter hit 5 ft. 8 inches tall  just a few months before her 13th birthday.
She openly loathes her new height and actively prays she will cease growing.
In an effort to lift her hormonal spirits, while employing the age-old trick of “as long somebody other than your parents say it, it must be true”  I enlisted help.

These words of love and support go out to all adolescents who currently hate their bodies.
We old-timers have been there. We recall the suck.
But there’s a way out!
Just listen…..

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Dear Maddy,

Being tall is like a super power. For real.
I was tall early on. I’m 5’ 8” now, which isn’t extraordinary, but I haven’t grown since I was 12-ish. I’ve been this height since 6th grade. So… in elementary class photos, I was always in the back-row, center; the pinnacle of the class pyramid. At that time, I liked the fact that when the photographer lined us up, I was always heading up the march to the risers. It made me feel strong, like a leader. But that wasn’t always the case, especially around some smaller, less “strong” friends and classmates.

I had this one friend, especially (my best friend): Kathy. She was quite petite. Delicate even. Somehow being around her made me feel like a lumbering amazon. I struggled with feeling like that around her the most, even though I loved her the most of all my friends. (Incidentally, she thought my blue eyes were unfair – we all have something, turns out).

What I eventually realized, and what I wished I’d realized sooner, is that while we all have our physical differences, strengths, preferences, blah, blah, blah- I really liked what my particular body gave me. I liked having the power to walk into a room and decide whether I wanted to command the space or float along the wall. I have a pretty kick-ass mind and personality and my height gave me the opportunity to meet the eyes of anyone I wanted to share it with. Male or female, young or old.

And yes, boys are suh-lowwwww growers, but not for long, and by the time they catch up, and surpass you, you’re way ahead in the confidence game, that is an asset. I learned that there is a special kind of style that can only be exhibited by the long-of-limb.

While we taller girls will never have the “Hi- I’m a tiny little elf” thing going for us, what we have is an opportunity to display our grace and femininity in a way that others just don’t. So stand up tall. Tilt your chin a little. Make some eye-contact. Be mindful of your movements. When you’re lying around with your friends, find a space that you can stretch out in and fill it. (Oh! And clothes/shoes- you have so many more options. Use them)
You’re beautiful. You are a super-hero.

-Amy Hunt

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Dear Maddy,

Sara said to tell you, “I feel your pain. I’m 5’6, 11 years old and in the 6th grade. I tower over all my friends and all boys my age.”

What I want to tell you is, I too went through what you are going through at your age. While I remember some uncomfortable moments, I’m mostly thankful for this blessing. When I accepted, and gratefully realized, my tallness it was the most liberating feeling! I owned it, embraced it and even gave modeling a shot when I was 16! (Three years away for you… Wink wink). There is no greater feeling than acceptance of yourself. You have you for the rest of your life! I guess what I’m trying to say is that you have sooooo much in your court to make this into a beautiful thing, rather than feeling down. That just clouds all the wonderful things you could achieve; not just because you are tall, but also because you are smart, loving, caring, loyal, artistic and absolutely gorgeous! That’s a recipe for pure success right there!

I love you, pretty girl! Always remember you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Ps. Tell your mom to call me before I shank her. That’s all.

Your auntie,

– Annixa Silfa

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Dear Maddy,

I was always in the back row of school pictures because I was tall. In high school I reached 5′ 8″, which was giant back then. Now, consider not only being too tall while all the petite girls (including my sisters) were 5’1″ and 5’4″, but adding that I had crooked teeth and some other defects that were devastating to my emotional growth; though I got through the rough stuff and turned out pretty ok.

Miss Maddy, be thankful that being tall is your only concern. You are a beauty inside and out. Trust me, the boys will catch up and in the meantime, you can kick their butts.

-Teri Fey Cowley

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Dear Maddy,

In fifth grade I was five foot two and the tallest in my class. I was extremely self-conscious and kept to myself a lot because I felt weird; taller than all the girls AND the boys too. By seventh grade people started catching up to me, and by high school everyone shot over my head. I was then put off, now being the short one of the bunch.

You may never be the shortest again, and feel awkward right now, but these things I can promise you:

  1. Many (many) people will shoot up very soon, and you’ll not be the ‘tall one’ forever.
  2. When you’re looking back on school as an adult, your height won’t matter any. You’ll think about the friends you had, the crazy things you have done, and what made you feel the best.
  3. You can’t change your genes, and everyone is different. Be proud of who you are.

Hope this helps,
Jessica

PS. You have awesome parents. Take their word for it when they say you’re beautiful. They know what they’re talking about!

-Jessica Thompson

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Dear Maddy,

Coming from your vertically challenged neighbor, being tall can be such a blessing. You will never have to: crawl up the shelves at the grocery store to reach the top item that is almost gone, spray spiders who hide at the top of the wall with hair spray so they fall to where you can crush them, use a ladder to reach the top of your SUV when washing it, you’ll be able to dunk a basketball, or at least reach the hoop, and in the far, far distant future, you won’t have to stand on your tiptoes to kiss a boy! Oh, and if you ever want to hang a shotgun over your door to protect yourself from intruders, you’ll be able to reach it!!! If you get lost in a crowd, you won’t have to stand on a bench to see where your family/friends are! There are many benefits I’ve only dreamed of.
You’ll get used to it one day. And even start to love it!
Once the boys pass you up in high school, it’s not too bad. So Alyssa would say!

-Kelly Douglass

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Dear Maddy,

I towered over most too. Finding jeans long enough and skinny enough was a challenge. But  you will find stores that carry long length. Rue 21 carries them. Embracing the height should be done, though. Wearing high heels will be a bonus to finding tall men. Heck, even short guys like tall women. I remember being 5’10” in Jr. High and dating guys that were barely 5′. Lol. Tall is different. Tall is special. I am between 6’2″ and 6’4″ with heels today and I loooooooove it!!!!!!!!!!!

-Christine Brock

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Dear Maddy

As a woman who has been 6 ft. tall since I was twelve, I can assure you your height is a great thing! You can look most everyone in the eye with confidence. You never have to wear heels if you don’t want to – and if you do, prepare to be the belle of the ball! People will automatically view you as more confident if you own your height. Play sports. Stand out in a crowd. There are so many women that would love to be as statuesque as you!

-Heather RobertsQ

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Dear Maddy…boys love tall girls with big butts…little known secrets…get tall…don’t worry about your butt!
Sincerely
6ft tall big assed Rhonda

-Rhonda Peterson

Only the Unlonely

It happened just the way I’d pictured it. We waved goodbye to our girls; one tall, one small, hand-in-hand, backpack-strapped, escorted by a flight attendant aboard a plane headed for Nana’s house. And, as anticipated, tears were spilled. We sat at the gate long after it had emptied, awaiting departure, and, an extremely somber 30 minutes later, they were gone.

A few blocks from the airport we dined at our favorite sushi place and gradually I felt the mood begin to lift. Clouds rolled backward, heavens opened up, and to our mutual amazement, something like a choir of joyous angels descended unto earth, banishing sorrow in a sweet falsetto, “Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found theeeeeeee,” and all at once it hit us: we were FREE!

Two seconds after arriving home the mister was naked. Simply to be naked. And, unless forced to be in public, he ceased wearing clothes altogether. At some point I found him standing in the backyard, basking in the setting sun, a warm breeze blowing through his…chest hair. We giggled like loons. We agreed to have naked breakfast on the patio that weekend, because….what neighbors? Neighbors who? We’re a childless couple now. We’re naked old people in our backyard now; top o’ the morning to ya!

Nudey-dudey breakfast time never came to pass, however, for we did something far greater with our mornings; we slept in. We stayed out late, we woke late, we lounged in bed, snuggled like it was an Olympic sport, made each other laugh, made each other smile, made out, napped, watched t.v., ventured outdoors only for food, came home and did it all over it again. We stocked the refrigerator with kale, fish, coconut Thai tomato soup and stinky cheese. We hatched a plan to scope out recipes; alternating nights in which one would surprise the other with an exciting new dish. We didn’t purchase a single frozen toaster pastry, shitty chemical-flavored cheese cracker, or any product with a character from Frozen on it. It was like living in a dream.

By Sunday I, too, had kicked the habit of wearing clothes. Had we ever gotten along so well? Ever been more in love? Was it as magical back when we were dating? I didn’t think so. And the house! We’d cleaned it just after our daughters left, and days later…it was still clean! I turned to my beloved, bald, giant, hairy nudist and cried, “It’s THEM! It’s always been THEM!”

But at the close of our refreshing weekend, around 10 PM, he learned his father had been hospitalized in Michigan. He spent Monday morning gathering info, Monday afternoon making travel arrangements, and by Tuesday morning I was once more at the airport waving farewell (though I’m relieved to report, his pops is presently on the mend and recovering well).

My 37th birthday followed, the very next day, and every member of my household was in a different state; one in Florida, one in Washington, one in Michigan. I was a little bummed out by this, until I reminded myself how I’d kicked them all out, on purpose, just three weeks prior – for Mother’s Day. That was my gift request: GET. OUT. I only wanted time to myself, without having to go anywhere to get it. I sent my little family out to dinner and just kicked back in silence, soaking in the stillness, and ignoring texts like, “If you change your mind, we’d love for you to join us” and “I wish you were with us mama.” Perhaps the opposite of leaving me in peace, but I didn’t mind. I also didn’t feel bad. I told my preteen, “Someday, you’ll be all grown up and out on your own. Someday you might live a zillion miles away and I will miss you like a crazy person. And someday I’ll thrill to get a phone call from you, I’ll ache to spend time with you, and I’ll count the minutes until I see you again. But NOT today.”

And thus, Life, being funny the way Life insists it’s very funny, said, “Happy Birthday, Niki! Here’s some of that mega-extended ‘me time’ you value so much. We left the cat. Cheers.”

But joke’s on Life, for once, since I’ve been enjoying myself. Between my husband making surprise birthday arrangements before he left town and my co-workers/friends rallying around me, I’ve been quite content. In the week and a half since the fam deserted, I’ve discovered this weird, yet incredible thing called “do whatever you want.” I make whatever I want for dinner, rent whichever movie I please, go to bed at any ungodly hour suitable to my fancy, and I leave the house without announcing where I’m going, or when I’ll be back. I answer to no one! Except the cat.

Dr. Pickles disapproves, but he’s not the boss of me.

Dr. Pickles

The entire scenario has caused me to reflect on the fact that I’ve never lived alone. I talk a lot about growing up alone in the woods – and minus a pack of wolves raising me, it’s mostly true. Between the ages of five and twelve I lived smack-dab in the middle of 17 acres of forest, and because my stepfather hated children (and being that I was a child, sucked to be me) I was forbidden to have friends over. I spent A LOT of time alone. With a cat.

As an adult woman, though, not so much. I’ve lived with my mother, a roommate, a significant other, or, later on, my first born – but never alone. Good thing I got so much practice at solitude when I was small, it made the last several days doable. Pleasant, even. Definitely an interesting and introspective journey, but I’m done now. All done. All caught up on the “me time.” If this is some “It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of shit, go ahead and hook Clarence up with those wings, Universe, because I got the message. I’d like my family back now, please.
Posthaste, tout de suite, and hurry the lonesome hell up.
They are my life, and my God am I a lucky woman for it.

Unfinished Blogging Business of 2013

Welcome to the unfinished thoughts/would-be blogs/mad ramblings of 2013.
It wasn’t all sunny vacations and lovey-dovin’ times.
Some of went a little something like…
_________________________

On the affordability of organic food for the average American family:

(Working Title: Organically Rich)

I wish my Facebook news feed had less “Hurry! Buy all the ammo you can from WalMart before Obama takes your guns!” and more, “Holy fuck, are strawberries supposed to be the size of my fist? Because, I want to be worried about this….but they’re SO MODIFIANTLY (hello new word) DELICIOUS!”

Even the staunchest fuck-the-environment-global-warming-is-a-lie-eat-more-mad-cow citizen is having a hard time denying the chemical and genetic creepiness in our FDA approved num-nums. Yet I’ve seen a decade of organic food that is simply way too expensive for the average American family. Buying solely organic is a budgetary ball-buster for general, not-poor-by-national-standards families – like mine.

Do you have any idea how much fruit my kids eat? An entire apple tree a day, at least. And while it has kept the doctor away, it has also kept the college fund away. “Hey kids, sorry you have to work full time at McDonald’s in order to put yourself through the next ten years of community college, but at least you didn’t get cancer. And you’re welcome.”

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On the separation of Church and State….

School Friend: “Do you believe in the devil?”
My Daughter: “Uh, no. I don’t believe in scary things like Hell, either.”
School Friend: “Oh. Well you SHOULD! Do you listen to rap or Katy Pery? Because they sold their souls to the devil. You need to listen to gospel!”
My Daughter: “What business is it of yours what I believe in? We’re not even supposed to be talking about this. This isn’t a Christian school!”

I love my daughter.

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On Creepy old men…..

(Working Title: “Next Up on To Catch a Predator”

Older men of planet Earth, roughly 35+, please stop being gross. More specifically, stop openly lusting after girls significantly younger than yourself. Do whatever you want in private. Amass your collection of “barely legal” porn and have a big old freaky creepfest, all to hairy yourselves. But, for christsakes, what happens in your pervert den needs to stay in your pervert den!

When I was in my teens and twenties, and men my father’s age hit on me, it was gross. I smiled politely, because that’s what nice girls do, and because it’s a little sad, but ultimately…just gross. And all these years later, as I watch middle-aged men make the same millenia-old advances on very young girls…still gross.

Tonight I stood in a checkout line behind a dude between 35 and 40 years old, witnessing his miserable attempts at flirting with the teenage checker. After idle chit-chat, he angled his head to look at her name tag. “Carly. That’s a very pretty name. Just like you.” She thanked him, courteously, scanning his purchases as fast as she could, as he continued with, “I’m Dennis. It’s nice to meet you.” He inquired when she was getting off work. She wisely avoided answering.

When he left, and she was ringing me up, I said, “Hey. So, uh, my name’s Dennis. What time you gettin’ off?” She looked up at me, surprised, then busted up laughing. She said, “You caught that same vibe, huh?” I told her I couldn’t help mentioning the weirdness, and she said, “You see this blue dot on my name tag? It means I’m underage. I’m 17.” She smiled and rolled her eyes. This happens to her a lot. In my best redneck, I drawled, “Yeah, but Carly sho is a purdy name.” We both giggled, and I felt I’d helped scrub away a bit of the yuck that had been left by Stranger Danger Dennis.

Then I said: “But, in all seriousness, maybe have someone walk you to your car tonight.”

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On letters to my daughters…

Dear Bubby,

You recently helped an elderly woman carry her groceries into her condo, unprompted. Afterward, she called out to your dad and I, “You are doing a wonderful job with her! Children these days just don’t do things like that anymore!” What she didn’t know is, while your dad and I feel pretty solid in our parenting, and happily take credit where it’s due, the driving force behind your thoughtfulness is generated directly, and purely, from your own gigantic heart. It’s not a learned behavior. You are just wonderful.

And I hope the world doesn’t beat that out of you. Rather, I hope you don’t let it. Because it’s easy to let it. Trust me. Enough people will repay your kindness with a knife in your back, and you will begin to doubt the wisdom of remaining kind. Some say those that meet kindness with cruelty are the ones who need kindness most of all, and others (like me) say, f*ck those guys. You’ll learn how and where to draw the lines in your own compassionate sand. And if you listen to your instincts (and not the babble of your head), you’re gonna do just fine.

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On Pop Music…..

I just watched Nicki Minaj give Lil’ Wayne a lap dance on stage at the Billboard awards. I don’t generally watch these things, but icons from my youth were being honored: Madonna and Prince. And before I could weep for my daughters’ generation, I remembered the biggest song on the radio when I was 11 years old was “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael.

And I turned out just fine.

(Be afraid.)

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On New Year’s resolutions….

At the start of the year I wrote an email to myself: “I will learn to forgive in 2013. Not just accept, not just deal, not just “let go”, but forgive. I will do so with a clearer head and an expanding heart. I will face fears and summon courage.”

___________________________________________

So long, 2013. Onward and upwards.

Moments and Mementos

Throwing the first of what will likely become an annual holiday party in our home, we invited our guests to bring wrapped, inexpensive mystery presents to be won in a dice game. A “Dirty Dice” holiday game (not that kind of dirty) that my family has played every Christmas for the last twenty years. We just call it “The Dice Game” but when I searched it for its official rules, “Dirty Dice” it was. So named for the last, frantic fifteen minutes of cut-throat present stealing. It really helps draw out the inner greedy, materialistic bastard in us all – otherwise known as “The Christmas Spirit.”

TreeThe game was a smash, hence plans for future events, but a couple of unexpectedly cool things happened besides good times, gift hoarding, and my husband dressing as Santa, passing out presents to the little ones. See, some of our friends identify themselves as introverts. And I can relate to the socially awkward. I grew up in a tree talking to a cat. I believe the movie “Nell” was loosely based on my childhood. But I watched the socially uncozy unite during our gathering. There was a fellow, a new friend’s husband, who was, to the watchful eye, clearly uncomfortable in the crowd of strangers. Another of our self-proclaimed wallflower friends took the goodwill initiative and led the newcomer on a tour of my husband’s action figure packed man cave; more commonly referred to as the “Joe Room”, but also known in some circles as “Geek Mecca.” When the newcomer and his wife bid us goodnight he said, “I just want to tell you, I normally hate parties. My wife had to drag me here. But I had such a good time! You guys are awesome!”

Best compliment of 2013. God it feels good making others feel good.

Highlight dos arrived when a few friends recognized some of my holiday décor for the vintage childhood memorabilia it really is. I had no idea the Christmas Countdown Mouse Calendar had once been so popular. And I don’t know how it went down in other 80s and 90s homes, but in mine, my mother told me the elves came each night to leave candy in the pocket of the newest December day. My most vivid memory of this calendar was the year she underwent back surgery. Being that I was 10 years old, and no longer bought the elf story…but still liked candy very much, my mom pre-packed all days she’d be away in the hospital – a little over a week. I remember looking at that calendar, and the numbered pockets full of chocolates, feeling sad that she would be gone so long, feeling worried and scared for her health, and feeling loved because she’d taken the time to fill my calendar. I felt a mixture of trepidation and reverence. And then I ate ALL the candy at once.

I may have left a few days worth, for sentimentality’s sake. I can’t recall. That was so last century.

IMG_0079But the conversation of youthful yuletide totems led to the pieces of personal history that hung from my tree. Moreover, the ingenious tradition my mother began in 1979, when she bought me my first ornament featuring Pooh Bear and Piglet. Every year afterward she took me to the Hallmark store and had me choose a keepsake. She told me they’d be the ornaments I moved away from home with, someday, and the very first tree of my own would sparkle with the memories my childhood. And that’s exactly what happened.

IMG_0089Every year, when I unbox the squirrels on the telephone, I’m reminded that when I was 13 years old I could not be pried from the phone. And when I hang the Heathcliff ornament on my tree, the one I picked out when I was 7 (my mom labeled all the boxes with the year I chose them, because she’s awesome like that), I wonder if anyone even remembers who Heathcliff was.IMG_0073 There are adorable years, like racoon-riding-a-skateboard year, because I was into raccoons and cute skateboarders. And there are solemn years, like the year my mentor lost her young life in a head-on collision with a semi-trailer, and I chose an angel to represent her.IMG_0075

IMG_0096As I pointed out these artifacts, sharing their stories, a few people said, “Wow. I’m stealing your mom’s idea.” And they should. And you should, too. It’s a beautiful thing to give your children; little memories of long ago Christmases to adorn their someday trees, all their later on lives.

IMG_0109Naturally, I carry on this tradition with my own daughters. Though we’re not bound to the sacredness of the Hallmark Keepsake Ornament. In fact, this year’s additions were hand painted and shipped to us by my talented auntie Holly (I share the link to her Etsy shop and Facebook page every chance I get, she’s amazing). My eldest received a Hunger Games inspired ornament, a Sally one was made for my “Nightmare Before Christmas” obsessed youngest, and a surprise “Breaking Bad” piece came for me. Yay! Because what says “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” better than a little Heisenberg?IMG_0106

Now, I’m not sure my girls appreciate the ornament ritual just yet. I mean, they love choosing their annual baubles, but they’re already critical of choices they made just a year or two previous. My eldest rolls her eyes at her 4 year old “Barbie Princess” pick, while my youngest is so over her 2 year old “Go, Diego, Go!” selection. And that’s fine. It still goes up on our tree, just as I hope they will one day be displayed as lovingly upon the girls “someday” ones.

And we’ll wonder if anyone remembers who the hell Diego was.
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We Love Hard For This

The season is upon us! And whether you agree it’s the most wonderful time of year, or you declare it the most expensive, stressful, pointless, irritating and/or depressing, I have come bearing gifts of holiday cheer!

Well, this isn't the YouTube cheer, just regular old happy everything non-motion cheer.

Age old ‘happy everything’ cheer.

Now, after viewing our upcoming YouTube internet gifts to you (our gifts to the world, really…nay, the universe) you’ll likely ask if we are professional entertainers. Clearly we’ve studied dance and mastered choreography at some point in our collective family career. Surely we’ve performed as a professional troupe; a modern-day “Familie Von Trapp.” But no! Say WHAAAT? I know. It’s hard to believe but, no, we are not trained thespians. We were just bored after Thanksgiving dinner, and it was either bust out the Christmas C.D.s and make with the silly, or watch a movie.

Be glad, and rejoice, that we did not watcheth a movie. But instead…

Viewer Discretion Advised: We are not a perfect family.
Many believe us to be so awesome (and we are), so happy (we mostly are), and the snapshot of an ideal familial unit (which we absolutely are not). This impression is derived from the P.R. face we present to the world. And while the truth of us isn’t some dark, ugly, lie behind closed doors, we have our equitable share of dirty laundry; the sort we choose not to air.

When I hear, “Oh I wish my husband was romantic, like yours,” and, “Oh I wish my family had fun like yours does,” I feel compelled to make others feel better by assuring them that we are real, flawed human persons. That my husband is a thoughtless jerkface, just like theirs, and my children are fiercely engaged in the total annihilation of one another – or me, whichever comes first. And I also assure them how there isn’t enough wine in the breadth of existence to make any of it okay. But, one, no one believes me, and two, it just sells my family short. I shouldn’t have to convince people we’re REAL people.

Especially when I should know, by now, those people will project whatever they want onto the joy we attempt release into the world. They will be uplifted by it or they will be disgusted by it – or some intrinsically complicated lovey-hatey limbo therein.

But I’m not going to feel bad about being happy. Or having a happy family.
We work hard for this.
We LOVE hard for this.