Category Archives: motherhood

Salutations 2015

Oh! Hey there 2015! You startled me!
How are you? Five months old already? Wow. Where does the time go….
Me? Oh yeah, well, you can say I’ve been a little busy.

I don’t know if anyone told you, but I enrolled in college last summer. Adults go back to school all the time, I know, but in my case it wasn’t so much the going back thing as it was more the just going to part. I wasn’t picking up from where I left off at 19 or 20, because at 19 and 20 I didn’t believe in the future. I believed in part-time jobs, all night parties and never marrying or (shudder to think) having children. Little Niki was kind of a shithead, but we forgive her.

All these years later, my placement test slated me for college-level English and Dumb Blonde Math. About two weeks into Dumb Blonde Math I posted the following: “Quotients are welcome to shove an integer up their respective prime factorizations.” My attitude has yet to improve.

There are three remedial math classes I need to complete before tackling a mandatory pummeling in college algebra. I knocked out the first course last semester. This semester, however, I floundered hopelessly in what I believe was the equivalent of 11th grade algebra and/or Dante’s Seventh Circle of the X Y Interception of Hell. Somewhere along the way, I started to write a blog called “7F{(6u+4.2c)-13k(4M-12a+1t)+3.7h = F*ckM*th” but the title alone exhausted me and I passed out in a pool of my own dim-witted tears.

You see, I just took on too much this semester. I assumed, because I’d managed an English and Math course last semester, with an A and B respectively, that I was a not only a mega-genius but also some kind of full-time-working-mother-super-hero-lady-pants.

Which reminds me, at our marriage counselor’s office (don’t worry, we’re fine, we simply require a communication tune-up every now and then) there’s this series of mental health statements you have to rate via electronic tablet before every session. Ranging from “I feel good today,” to “I want to stab my boss in his/her yapping face hole,” – Strongly AgreeAgree; Undecided; Disagree; Strongly Disagree.
The one that never fails to amuse goes: “I feel like I have special powers.”
Yet, next time we go in for a tune-up, there will be no giggles from me. Just a reluctant admission of “Strongly Agree.”

I strongly agree that I thought I had special powers when I took on four online courses – to include Biology 100 and Dumb Blonde Math II – while still a full-time employee, still a full-time mother to a kindergartner and a 13 year old (ALL THE HORMONES), all during the months when my husband retired from a 24 year career in the military (ALL THE MID-LIFE CRISIS) and our lives changed forever. But, to my dismay, I did not manifest the necessary super human strength, and it turns out that I also need to sleep sometimes. Who knew.

Oh, guess what else? Within the framework of a self-paced online math course, it seems my individual pace is “NO.”
Intermingled with “Fuck this shit” and “I wish I were dead.”

So yes, you could say It’s been a rough five months. Far more difficult than I thought it would be, even though I’ve seen people struggle through it before. When I think of the friends and family who worked toward their degrees in similar situations, they have my eternal respect. Heroes and martyrs – all of them.

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In other news, life is good. My girls are still happy, healthy, and doing great in school, and my husband is slowly but surely navigating life as a civilian – the first step of which appears to be mandatory beard growth (which I thought I’d mind at first …but it’s kinda hot). We’re planning to move this summer. Whether that means locally in AZ or ending up on one of the coasts is, as yet, unknown. In fact, there are so many unknowns just now that if I dwell on them for long enough my chest starts pounding and it gets harder and harder to breathe so, I avoid that. I’m keeping the “future-tripping” to a minimum, and the “right now” on blast. A greatly matured yet slightly suspicious Little Niki lives on.

Also, I’m taking a break from school. Not giving up, just pausing for air. I’ll be one of the “go-backers” next year.
But, do me a favor, will you?  Please tell 2016 to be kind to me?
Thanks, 2015. You’re a peach.

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Lessons Via Bastards Telling You Painful Stories

Once upon a Christmas Eve while visiting home for the holidays, my step-father, after having consumed his customary seven to eight gallons of cheap, rotgut whiskey, cornered me in the kitchen and apologized, ad nauseam, for being such a gigantic douchebag my whole life. He then elaborated on his sorrow by telling me a story I could have happily lived the rest of my life never having heard.

Before I relay the details of this glorious yuletide tale, (cause shiz about to get real……personal, that is) I want to pre-defend my mother’s honor. She was a very good mom, my mama: sweet, warm, loving, super fun and deeply devoted to her one and only child. As a human being, she is equally stellar: funny, intelligent, strong, reliable, incredibly talented and in possession of a heart as big as the mighty universe. But she came into this world with birth defects, back when ruthless bullying didn’t make the news or launch outraged media campaigns to abolish it, so she suffered. Greatly. Horribly. And, naturally it follows that, with low self esteem so instilled, perhaps she didn’t make the best choices in men. To this she always said, “I didn’t have that many options.” Given the right guidance in life, she may have felt differently. She may have empowered herself and she may have discovered many more desirable options, but that’s just not how our collective cookie crumbled.So….what happened was….

Back in that 2007 Christmas Eve kitchen, with my mother and my boyfriend serving as the audience, my step-father cornered me and muttered sloppy, random apologies about my upbringing over his ethanol-laden breath. Then, out of nowhere, he slurred the following cringe-inducing confession: “I feel bad sometimes…..like for that one time…..that one time me ‘n yer mom went to the bar……and you were sleepin’ in the backseat…..you musta been about three years old….and we left you asleep in the car….. while we had some drinks…..I don’t know how long it was….but then this one fucking asshole comes in…..he’s all pissed off….and he yells, at the top of his lungs, ‘WHO THE FUCK LEFT THEIR FUCKING KID ASLEEP OUT IN A FUCKING CAR???!!!’ ….and I kicked that guy’s ass. That guy was a fucking asshole!”

Isn’t that great?! Wonderful story, yes? One to snuggle up with loved ones and tell by fireside every Christmas, for generations to come. Warm family fuzzies for EVERYBODY! (Christ Almighty.)

As Step-Daddy-Dearest recounted his version of deplorable events, I remember turning to my then-boyfriend, now-husband, with wide dear-god-make-it-stop eyes. In that moment I felt an awful mixture of absurdity and embarrassment, and I sent the following message with my fully rounded, please-kill-me eyeballs: “Oh Scottie, I knew I was fucked up. I knew my childhood was fucked up, and that I am ultimately, psychologically, and possibly irreparably fucked up. But I didn’t know I was THIS fucked up! And I’m sorry. I would have warned you if I could’ve. I’m so sorry. If you leave me, I will completely understand. Matter of fact, you should probably leave me now. Save yourself. This ship isn’t sinking. It wrecked a long, long time ago.”

He didn’t leave me, though. He married me instead. Turns out he had a less than Norman Rockwell upbringing himself. Not Child Protective Services worthy, not even close, but his parents’ marriage couldn’t be categorized as a healthy one – and he picked up a good number of his own relationship-killing habits watching that mess go down. Even still, 2015 will mark our ten year anniversary. Ten years of working on taming our inner-insulant-children, and ten years of helping one another to do a lot of growing up. Progress. Improvement. Growth and expansion. My oh my, but it’s a marvelous thing.

I only wish my mom could revel in the same sense of accomplishment, having battled and won so much in her time. Because, while her husband sat spewing old, drunken, dirty family laundry that Christmas Eve,I looked over and found her with her head hung in shame – which simply broke my heart. I hate to see her in pain. I’ve seen much too much of my mom in pain. She’s dealt with more than her fair share of suffering this lifetime, and she really did do the best she could by me. Her parenting wins far outweigh her parenting fails. She taught me honesty and integrity. She taught me compassion and (though it took me something like 25 years to show it) responsibility. She taught me how to love with my whole heart. And, whenever anyone compliments me on what a good mother I am, I let them know I’m only emulating her example – and her overall example was LOVE.

Again, I could have died a happy woman never knowing that I was once a tiny, blonde, pigtailed three year old left alone in the back of a car (1979 Camaro? 1976 Nova? It’s anybody’s whitetrash guess), while her mother and her mother’s jerk of a boyfriend went to drink in a bar. In fact, after hearing the story, it took me months to absorb it. Sorta shook me up. In a logical sense, it shouldn’t have. There are much lousier childhood incidents I can recall easily and vividly, but I still tear up when I think about that little girl left alone.

It’s not the worst thing that ever happened to a child. As far as kids and atrocities go, I got off all sorts of lucky. But a wound is a wound. A scar is a scar. And a drunken stepdad on Christmas Eve is a pitifully old, selfishly unburdening-himself bastard. However uncomfortable inebriated step-dad’s over-sharing might have been, it afforded the opportunity to confront a bunch of my ancient mental bullshit, and it prompted me to work on getting the sam hell over it. I’m far from all the way over it (clearly), but I’m getting there.

What I find truly fascinating, even encouraging, is the idea that I might just be a better person for it. For ALL of it. All the sad, all the shame, all the massive heartache: the whole tumultuous lot of my youth. This notion that it didn’t just “all work out in the end”, or that I didn’t merely “turn out okay”, but rather than it all meant something and it was all intrinsically necessary in order for to me be ME…….well, I dig that. I get that. It makes sense. I lived it all, and now the trick appears to be learning to love it all.
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If you pay attention, all existential roads seem to lead back to love.
And if you’re not getting there….maybe you (we, US) are doing it wrong.

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

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

My Placid Panic Attack

My babies are leaving the state today, and that’s fine. I’m perfectly okay with it. Completely comfortable and entirely at ease, save for some small, anxious, inner-portion of me that is quietly yet persistently FREAKING THE FRACK OUT!
But I’m told this is normal.

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” –Elizabeth Stone

Indeed. Like, 1500 to 2000 ridiculously bothersome miles outside and far away from your body.

In less than six hours I’ll be escorting my 5 and 12 year old children through airport security, locating their gate, walking them to the entrance of a gangway, hugging and kissing them profusely, possibly crying already, waving goodbye still as I watch the backs of their beautiful little heads get smaller and smaller, watch them make a left, out of sight, boarding a plane to Washington state. WITHOUT ME. And I’m freaking out.

On the other side of their non-stop, three hour flight awaits my mother. She’s probably already there. She probably arrived at Sea-Tac yesterday; brought a sleeping bag and is camped out at the girls’ arrival gate. I need not worry about their safety in her care. But still. Freaking out.

My 12 year old will only be on Washington soil two days before she flies to Orlando, Florida with her bio-father and his family; off to see her older brother (from another mother) graduate high school. She’ll spend three days in Disney World, a few days in a condo on Cocoa Beach, and she’ll have an amazing time. And even though I have a positive, healthy co-familial relationship with my ex-husband, his wife and their little girl – one that centers on respect, and acting like grownups – and even though I trust them with the safety of my little-now-big girl, even still and all the same, I’m ever so serenely FREAKING OUT.

After a week in Florida, my little-now-big girl will fly back to Seattle, reuniting with my little-still-little girl at Nana’s House of Perpetual Joy and Cookie Time. They will bake all sorts of goodies, dive imagination-first into Nana’s wonder-world of arts and crafts supplies, roam Nana’s lush green garden and help her plant flowers – learning the names of approximately 8000 species of Dahlia along the way. They’ll play with, snuggle and/or terrorize Nana’s plethora of cats. They’ll rarely be told “no”, or go to bed before 9 PM, or be forced to eat vegetables, and they will have the time of their lives. And while the thought of it makes me happy beyond measure, still…..you know….little bit…with the freaking a lot out.

My house will be quiet for three whole weeks. For three weeks my husband and I will not be shuttling children to and from school/birthday parties/sleepovers/art classes/sports practice, and on long car rides no one will be fighting in the back seat or be bored out of their minds. For three weeks no little ones will wake us up at 6 AM on Sunday morning demanding food and cartoons. And no preteens will huff, “I know!” when you ask them to do the thing you asked them to do an hour ago (which was the same thing you asked them to do an hour before that) – and absolutely no one will roll their eyes at us, then vehemently deny having done so.

For three weeks my love and I can walk around the house naked, go out dancing all night long, watch foul-mouthed movies at top volume in the middle of the day and try out new recipes besieged with “gross” and “yucky” ingredients – like kale. We can hike mountains, explore caves, book romantic weekend getaways, relax, sleep in, and miss our children like mad.

Because I’ll miss them no matter the scenario. Whether I spend the next several weeks at home with a book (and a bottle of wine), or out on the town (with a bottle of wine), I imagine I’ll be saddled with this low hum of anxiety throughout. Little dark-recessed brain-whispers of “Pssst. Hey. Guess what. Your kids are still gone. It’s FREAK OUT TIME AGAIN!”

I know they’ll be fine, and I’ll be fine, and everything will be fine and perfectly stinking dandy, ….but still. Someone to talk me down from the crazy-mommy-ledge, please.

Easter: Terrifying Children with the Resurrection Story Since Zero A.D.

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Disclaimer: If you’re a devout Christian who takes offense when folks poke a little fun at Jesus (and baby Jesus, and the zombie Jesus), please skip this post. I don’t seek to offend or upset anyone in any way. I do not delight in your discomfort. But I’m possessed (
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My soon-to-be-kindergartner currently attends a Christian preschool. It came highly recommended and more attractive secular options did not present themselves when I went searching. Prior to enrollment, I’d explained that my family was non-religious (not to be confused with anti-religious, just not subscribing to, or practicing, any particular faith) and they assured me that was fine; they welcomed all faiths, beliefs and non-beliefs. And because our daughter was known to have a temper – and had once thrown a tantrum so colossal that, after 20 minutes, my husband wearily addressed her with, “The power of Christ compels you!” – we joked that maybe she could use a little Jesus. Just a little.

Over the course of her school year, however, staff changed, procedure changed, direction changed, and things got progressively more and more churchy. By Halloween we were told the children could dress up for a “fall festival” in the classroom, but only superhero, princess or animal costumes would be allowed. When I asked a staff member if it was okay for a child to dress as a bat, or a spider, so long as they didn’t cry “Hail Satan!” (which they did not think was funny), I was told, “That’s fine. Just as long as it’s not demonic or anything.”

Now, by this time my daughter was firmly engrossed in her pre-K curriculum, enjoying the hell out of her friends and teachers, and absolutely thriving. And considering I’ve been relatively happy with the staff overall, I couldn’t justify pulling her out of school just because, from time to time, a couple people said something that caused my eyes to roll heavenward (with a “Sweet Jesus, are you kidding me?”). We live in Arizona. Someone says something stupid and/or intolerant every 27 seconds. You learn to not sweat the small, silly stuff. And I didn’t. But that was before Dead Bloody Jesus.

Happy Bloody Easter! Where my eggs at?

Happy Bloody Easter! Where my eggs at?

Every day for the last several weeks my sweet five year old daughter has been coming home talking about “dead bloody Jesus.” She’s obsessed. The way all kids are obsessed with things dead and bloody; because it’s scary. “You know how Jesus got the blood on him and died? We watched two movies about it.” And, “Jesus was dead and bloody with a cross. Isn’t that sad? But we’re supposed to be happy.” And, “dead bloody Jesus” this, and “dead bloody Jesus” that. Yay Easter! Terrifying children with the resurrection story since zero A.D.

So, the other night she had a dream about Dead Bloody Jesus (of course she did) but, “It was okay! Me and my friends gave him a shot and he was all better!” And that, good sirs and madams, is indeed great news! Because I have to take this child in for immunization shots next week, and you know the old saying…….if it’s good enough for Dead Bloody Jesus…..

Happy Easter.

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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