The girls ran in their first cross-country meet yesterday.  It was an elementary school invitational held at the local high school.  Sass, who turns 6 this week, was nervous. I asked what she was worried about. She started crying and said that she didn’t want to get lost. I told her not to worry, that she couldn’t get lost because she would be running with the rest of the kids.

She looked up at me with those huge, drippy green eyes and said, “No, mama. I won’t. I’ll be in the front.”


St. Patrick is not nonsense.

Peanut: I heard that Saint Patrick played magic music and all the snakes left the land, but that’s nonsense because there is no such thing as magic music.

Sassy: ‘Scuse me Paige, but it’s not nonsense. Remember, the Ancient Egyptians played music to make the snakes calm down and not bite the queen so maybe it’s not magic but it’s not nonsense.

Mo: I LOVE snakes!

Peanut: He liked four-leaf clovers too. We should decorate the house with them.

Me: Actually, the story goes that it was a shamrock…a three-leaf clover–

Peanut: What story?

Me: The one about St. Patrick.

Sassy: So this is all just a story?!? What are we talking about then? I’m talking real stuff.  Really real stuff about Egypt.

Me: St. Patrick is real stuff too.  It was just a very long time ago so it’s hard to know now which parts of the story are real and which are not.

Sassy: That stinks.  They should have used hieroglyphics.

Mo: My shoe needs fixed.  It’s broken.

Peanut, 7. Sassy, 5. Mo, 2.

Choose your tail and make it happen.

Snow is exciting for kids, with the construction of snowmen and the whoosh of fast sleds. But snow is dreadful when it’s accompanied by arctic temperatures that make spending more than a few minutes outside dangerous. This winter we’ve had to explain the phenomenon of frostbite and ask the question, “is building a snowman worth losing a finger?”

The answer was, “yes.”

So, as the mounds of white taunted them, we barred the doors and hoped the siren song of winter would be muted by the theme from Wild Kratts.

Today, though, is beautiful.  A balmy 36 degrees–but it’s Monday.  School calls and outside diversions will have to wait.  We hope that we’ve turned the corner on this winter and that we will no longer have to stretch our imaginations to create more inside games.  We’ve hosted carnivals, markets, restaurants and even a kind-of TED talk series for a captivated, stuffed animal audience.   My favorite of the inside games, though, was not one that was created with parental support–or supervision.  It wasn’t even a game really.  It’s more a state of mind.

The tail store.

My 5 year old crafted a selection of tails from pipe cleaners.  The almost-3 year old got in on the game too.  But one tail was not enough for him.  He sported a dual tail apparatus while running endless laps through the kitchen, dining room and living room.

“Look at me!  I’m running. I so fast.  My tails are so fast. Do you see dem?”

The oldest was nonchalant about the tail thing, not partaking in the donning of tails but offering creative advice along the way, “I think you should use the purple for a dragon tail…..Yes! That’s it. More dragon-y.”

But the 5 year old was serious.  After creating a whole collection of tails, Sassy Bottom Baubles Spring/Summer 2015 (look for them in next month’s Vogue), she disappeared for a while in her room.  After a few minutes she came looking for tape, and I obliged.  Normally, a request for tape made outside of the scope of communal arts and crafts time and without explanation means something is broken, ripped or otherwise destroyed.  But, I was tired and lacking in motivation so I didn’t protest when she zoomed by me, on all fours, with the roll of tape in her mouth.

A few more minutes went by and I began to wonder about the quiet and fear for the safety of the pet fish who have taken up residence in her room.  I walked in and found her working carefully to affix a selection of tails to her dresser.  She turned to me, face beaming like the sunshine we all longed for, “It’s my collection.”


“This way, I can choose what kind of tail I want, whenever I want,” she explained. “When I feel like being a tiger, or a mouse.  When I want to be a kitten or a cheetah, I pick one and put it on, and Taa-Daa…I’m a tiger.”

“I love it,” I told her. “They’re beautiful.”

And they were.  They were beautiful.  A simple and simply glorious depiction of the way kids can feel empowered to be something or anything they want.  She wants to be a tiger, and an astronaut, and a dancer.  She does not see any of these as impossible.  She is not afraid to make her dreams known.  To give them voice–and tail, for all the world to hear and see.

I want her to stay this way.

I don’t want her to be quiet about what she wants.  I want her to express her dreams and make them happen.  Unless that dream is to build a snowman when the thermometer reads “LL”–lower limit–i.e. so cold the damn thing cannot even tell you how cold it is.  Quiet and a little less relentless would be good in that situation.

Or maybe not.

Necessity and dreams are the parents of invention. With an adequate supply of pipe cleaners, she just might invent some newfangled snow gear before moving on to her career as an intergalactic ambassador of tiger dancing.

Presidents of us.

We were talking about what it means to be the President, what they do, what qualities they should have and what the kids would do if they were the President of the hands-down best, but still beautifully and tragically flawed like a legendary warrior or any of the lead characters in Twilight, country on the planet.

Here are my notes. These kids have some good ideas.
P (almost 7), S (5) and R (almost 3).

P: Presidents should be old, because you have to live a long time to know the right thing to do sometimes.  When you’re little, you might know but it’s better to be old. Mama, I can’t wait to be old, but I don’t want you to die. I’m going to be a mother of one [holding up one finger for emphasis] baby when I’m old.  But I want you still to be here.  You’ll be here, right? [This kid dips my heart in gooey sweet caramel every day and takes a giant bite, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.]

S: America is the best country on Earth, but there might be another good country on Pluto which is now a planet again because it [holding up one finger and demonstrating that she listens to her teachers far better than she listens to her parents] is round, [now, two fingers] orbits the sun and [three fingers and a bent pinky at 90 degrees] moves in its own circle [balled up hands circling her face as if she is the sun, which she kind of is to me…when she’s not whining].  They thought Pluto was NOT a planet, but they took a closer look [closing her left eye and looking through a pretend magnifying glass with her right] and, whaddya know, it is a planet.  Um.  Um.  What was the question again?

R: Um. Scooze me. I need food. I soo hungry. [What he lacks in diction and verbs, he makes up for in adorable politeness.]

P: Presidents make rules, right? They should be smart so they make the right rules. If I were the President I would not let people use dangerous machines. [This is a reference to my day job, and a story for another time.] I would also say you cannot cut down anymore trees because if you cut down all the trees, the dangerous animals [I think she meant endangered, but who am I to say?] will have no place to live and it will be a really crazy bad idea because we need trees to breathe. [Man, how I love this kid.]

S: Yes, there are no trees on the moon which is why we can’t breathe on the moon.  Also, wait.  Um.  I remember what I was going to say.  The President should be big like Daddy.

R: I’m big.



Flags, Ketchup and Dinosaurs.

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”  -Ronald Reagan.

We were at the table talking about food and how delicious the zucchini sitting on our plates smelled, when my 4 year old announced with all the force of an Executive Order that she would, from this day forward, only eat foods that were white (sugar, bread, ice cream, the inside of chicken nuggets after the brown is scraped off and mozzarella cheese) and sometimes red (strawberries, watermelon, ketchup and pizza sauce).

The 6 year old told her she should have one more color, to make it look more like the flag.  Blue! Blue would be good, so she should add blueberries to her diet.  The 4 year old agreed with her big sister, “Yes, so my plate looks just like the French flag.”  Here’s how the rest of that convo went:

6: “I meant the American flag.”

4: “Oh, okay.  [Good-natured, chuckle.] Good thing they are both red, white and blue.”

6: “Hmm. That’s strange.  [Picks up fork, then puts it down.] Wait a minute!  The England flag is red, white and blue too.”

4: [Hasn’t touched her fork in 15 minutes.] “I know why they all use the same colors.  It’s because they only had those colors back then.”

6: “I think you’re right.  In olden times they only had primary colors and didn’t know how to mix them yet.”

4: “Yup. [Finally chewing…something white.] Wait.  Then how come the dinosaurs were so many different colors?”

6: “That’s easy.  Because they were extinct before there were people and when they were dead their bones were just white, so the people didn’t get to learn from the dinosaurs that there were so many different colors.”

4: [Pushes forkful of zucchini I’m holding away from her face.] “That’s too bad.  People could have learned a lot from dinosaurs.”

Me: “Yes, they could have learned to eat green things.”

4: “Don’t be silly, mama.  And, I don’t need green to eat vegetables.  I like ketchup.”

Me: “Reagan isn’t the President anymore to the great sorrow of many, including, apparently, you Miss Sassy. [Confused stares looking back at me, so I change direction.] Well look at that. While we were busy discussing flag colors and extinction, your little brother ate all his zucchini.”

4: “That’s because he’s too little to know what tastes good.”

6: “Hey! I like zucchini too!” [Fork dropped. Hands on hips.]

4: “Well, you’re too BIG to know what tastes good!”

6: [Hands still on hips, chest now puffed out.] “I’m big enough to know that you can’t just eat primary colors and survive.  You need to eat all the colors…ALL of them!”

4: [Rolls eyes and sighs audibly.] “You sound like a dinosaur.”


We have lots of great change to anticipate in America, if for no other reason than dinner takes roughly 3 hours in our house every night.


Spirit Animals

We had a chat about spirit animals, and the internet is not my friend.

I have no idea what it was like to answer kids’ questions before the internet.  I’m sure my parents just made things up, just as I do sometimes.  Mostly I answer the best I can and when I don’t know the answer, and there’s wifi available, we all huddle together around a screen and look together.  Of course, I find the right website first, before the screen is turned to the wider audience.  [This is a lesson I learned with Peanut when she was 4 and we were debating whether dinosaurs breathed fire. She agreed that, yes, dragons had fire breath, but refused to concede that dinosaurs did not.  For 10 minutes we talked about the difference between mythical and extinct creatures, until she told me, “I got that, Mom.  But dinosaurs breathed fire too!”  So, I went to the videotape…or rather internet.  I googled dinosaurs and fire, clicked the first result and, lo and behold, there was a creationist educational site that showed a dinosaur and dragon in a fire fight, both shooting flames from their snouts with some exceptional 90s-style CGI. The website explained that all those plants the dinos ate created methane gas that was ignited by electric eel-like sparks in mouths…or something like that. Peanut 1, Mom 0.  Now, I find the site first then share.]

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The Mysteries of Ancient Egypt and Other Bedtime Procrastinations

A 6 year old at bedtime.

8:14 pm
Wait. I have one more question.  I don’t understand what happened to the Ancient Egyptians.  They had everything so together.  They had gold and pyramids.  They had food and lots of beaches to play on. [Mom interjection (“MI”): Well, sand.  They had lots of sand.]  They were beautiful and now they are gone. [MI: Goodnight, sweet pea.]

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