Paige’s Birthday Interview, Age 5

Posted: February 15th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Birthdays, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop | 18 Comments »

I’m worried about how Paige is going to handle turning 30. If how she dealt with her fifth birthday is any indication, 30 will be a doozey. With the amount of discussion, processing, anticipation, and anguish that’s consumed her over this five-fingers-old b-day, you’d think she was in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

A few weeks back Mark was bathing Paige after dinner, and from my perch folding clothes on the couch I heard her start crying. This is not a terribly unusual occurrence, since by the end of the day exhaustion can get the better of Paige’s amiable disposition. I had no idea what she was bawling about but assumed Mark had it under control, so I forged on with my folding.

Five minutes later a toweled-off but still-wailing Paige dashed into the living room to find me. She was buck naked, her hair a mass of dripping wet, matted curls.

Ma-maaaaaaa,” she blubbered red-faced. “I don’t waaaaanna turn five! Everything’s gonna be different!”

“What do you mean?” I asked, wrapping her up in my arms.

“I don’t wanna leave my school! I love my teachers and my friends!” she wailed. It dawned on me that she thought she might be shunted directly kindergarten upon turning five. But before I could open my mouth she bellowed, “I don’t know how to do math! And I don’t even KNOW what P.E. is!”

Is it wrong to laugh at your sobbing, inconsolable child?

One thing Paige did embrace this year for her birthday—aside from her animal-themed party, which she counted down to starting some 20 days out—was her birthday interview. Yes the annual talk we have that I share on this very blog.

Here’s the transcript of our conversation:

Me: Do you feel different now that you’re five?
Paige:  Yes.
: How?
Why is it called an interview?
: Why do you think?
Because it’s interviewing you?
: Well, yes.

Me: So how do you feel different now that you’re five?
It feels like I can do more things by myself.
Like what?
Um. Hmmm…. Write!

Me: What do you like most about preschool?
Paige: Drawing.
: What else?
Play with my friends.

Me: What do you like to do most when you aren’t in school?
Paige: Read. Read Jack and Annie.
: Do you know how to read the words?
I am just doing it in my mind. I look at the words and I make them up into one whole words. That is how I read. Like w-x-n and z—but that doesn’t really make a word. That is how I read.

Me: If a genie could grant you only one wish, what would it be?
Paige: Having a house with dogs and cats allowed. Having a dog.

Me: Where do you think you’ll live when you grown up?
Paige: In… [long pause] Japan.
: Why?
I just do. I wonder what it’s like in Japan.

Me: Who do you think you will live with?
Paige: My kids and our father.
: Like your husband?
My husband.
: Do you have any idea who that’s going to be?
No. Well—I do have two ideas. I might marry two of those guys.
: Who?
Jonathan or Elliot. I mean Jonathan or Ezra!
: Why them?
I don’t know. I just like them. Jonathan isn’t into marrying me. He’s maybe going to marry Ania, one of my friends.

Me: Do you think you’ll want to have children?
Paige: Nah. I don’t know.
: Well you were saying you were going to live with them so I assumed that meant yes. But you’re not sure yet?
Not really.

Me: Who is your best friend and why do you like them? Do you have a best friend?
Paige: Well, not really. But I do! It’s Jonathan and Ezra.

Me: What do you think are the biggest problems in the world today?
Paige: That is kind of a hard question. Making a trap.
: What do you mean by that?
It’s the hardest thing to do today. Like a mouse trap. Well it’s not exactly a mouse trap. It like catches bugs and things like that.

Me: What would you do if you were the president?
Um. I would live with all the kids that I like. Yeah I would I would I would I would I would!

Me: Would you do anything to help people in the world?
Help kids—like things they can’t do and reach. And teach. Teach kids how to do things like swim.

Me: What do you think you are an expert on?
Paige:  On the swings. Because I can go really high on the green one, not super duper high on the blue one. Just medium on the blue one.

Me: What do you want to learn more about?
Paige: Science and spies.

Me: What have you done that you’re really proud of?
Paige: Going to swimming today and going underwater.

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Paige: An acrobat.
: What do they get to do?
They get to go on trapezes and do all fun stuff. And they’re freeeee!

Me: What is your favorite thing about yourself?
Paige: I’m lucky.
: That’s cool. Why?
Because I have a safe family and I have a house and toys.

Me: What songs are special to you?
Paige: “Super Trooper,” “A Sun of a Mass of Incandescent Gas,” and Phineas and Ferb songs. [Looks up at a poster] And Pinkalicious songs! No more songs that are special to me.

Paige: When is the boyfriend one gonna come up?
The boyfriend what?
The boyfriend question? Meep.
What is the boyfriend question?
It’s when you ask me if I have a boyfriend or if I want one.
Do you want to answer that?
Are you going to?
Okay, so what’s the answer?
I want a boyfriend.
What would you do with a boyfriend?
I would play with him.
Anything else you want to say about that?

Paige: Mommy you are just making up questions to me.
That is what an interview is.
So you’re really doing it?
Doing what?
Um. Making up questions.
Yeah, well I had them written here. Do you think I should have done it differently?
Are there more questions?

Me: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Paige: I would go to Hawaii to see the hula dancers.

Me: What are some of your favorite places you’ve gone to?
Paige: Rhode Island. New Yowk. Where else have we went to?
: Minnesota.
Minnesota! Where else?
: Ohio, Kentucky…
: Not every place has to be your favorite place.
[quietly] I really want to say Kentucky…

Paige: Is the interview done?
: Almost

Me: If you could have any super power what would it be?
Paige: Ice.
What do you mean?
Paige: Freeze bad guys.
Me: Then what would you with them?
I don’t know. I would be Freeze Girl!

Me: What are you most afraid of?
Paige: Um… John. The ghost of John. It’s a ghost named John. This is its song: [singing] Have you ever sawn the ghost of John? Long white bones and nothing left. Oooooh. Wouldn’t it be chilly to have no skin on?
[laughing] Where did you learn that?
Paige: A book.

Me: What makes you happiest?
Paige: Going to the ice cream store.

Me: Is there anything else I should be asking you for this interview?
Paige: What is my favorite movie. Um, what is that movie that we watched where the girl is the lead and there’s a bad girl? It’s something like Fiona? Where she gets a horse in the end?
Oh, what we watched last night? Flicka?
: Yes, I love Flicka. Flicka. Flicka.

Paige: Is my interview done?
Me: Yes. What did you think of it?
Paige: Good. It was a little different.
Me: Than what?
Paige: My other interviews.
Me: How?
Paige: I didn’t like what I said.
Me: You can change any of your answers.
Paige: Okay, what should it be?
Me: What answers should you change? I don’t know. I liked your answers.
Paige: Okay. I won’t change any.

Happy happy birthday and huge big love to you, dear Paige. This mama wouldn’t change a thing about you.


Post Election Wrap-Up

Posted: November 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Politics, Preschool | No Comments »

Last night as the networks reported poll results from Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida, monitored the Senate race, and Vanna-Whited high-tech color-blocked maps, I know what you were thinking. This is all very interesting, but what I really want to know is what’s happening at the McClusky house on Election Day.

Thankfully I’m here to tell you. (Although my infographics aren’t very impressive.)

Our day started early. Painfully early. At 5:30AM, in fact, when Kate—excited by the prospect of coming with us to vote before going to school—ran through the house turning on all the lights. This was followed by Mark bellowing just inches from my ear, “BACK TO BED, Kate! It is 5:30 in the morning!!”

At 6AM—around when we might have dozed off again—Paige banged open our bedroom door like she was walking into a Wild West saloon. “Is it time to do voting yet?”

Oy. Remind me never to hype an early morning activity to the children again.

I crawled into bed with Paige in the slim hope that we’d get a few more minutes of shut-eye. No luck. Instead I heard her four-year-old commentary on the presidential front-runners. “I want Brock Obama to win today, but then after he takes a turn I want Matt Romney to win.”

Yes, Matt.

At breakfast Kate channeled her Election Day excitement into sign-making. (She’s big on signage for our front door, as well as greeting cards for nearly every occasion.)

Some highlights from her rabidly enthusiastic, grammatically-challenged signs:

“Go! Oboma! Go! Go!”

“I [heart] Oboma xoxo”

“Goob luck Obomo! xoxo”

“Oboma Peawr!”

I don’t know about you, but I think these are all very peawrful messages. Looks like somebody might have a future in politics.

At our neighborhood polling center—a Korean Methodist church—two lines were formed. Depending on the street you live on you were shunted into Line A or Line B to vote. The girls waited patiently, waved to various neighbors and friends, and were stoked to each get an “I Voted” sticker.

On the walk home Kate skipped through the leaves and trilled, “I reeeeeally hope Obama wins!” Paige reached for my hand and asked, “Is Obama Line A or Line B?”

I’m so happy she’s grasped the two party system.

At the end of the day we got an email from the preschool. Turns out the political banter continued throughout the day. The teachers shared a snippet of a conversation they overheard on the playground.

Paige: My mommy is Mrs. Claus and Matt Romney is on the bad list. [She's referring to my Halloween costume, the dear.]

Annie: I want Obama.

Connor: I’m Bock Obama.

Miles: And I’m Mitt Romney.

Annie: I’m gonna choose who wins. You have to talk a lot. You are on the TV.  Now I’m gonna choose who wins. Eeeny-meeny-miny-mo. Obama wins. Here’s your trophy!

Miles: No fair! I want a trophy!

Paige: Now I’m gonna pick who wins. Miles! Here’s your trophy!

Annie: My brother wants Mitt Romney to win. But he’s disgusting. Like throw-up.

Ah, good stuff. You’d NEVER guess that these kids were at a progressive preschool in Berkeley, would you?

The teachers’ email went on to report, “Everyone in our class voted on a ballot and decided who they wanted to be our next president. Ballots went into a voting box. At our afternoon meeting, we counted each vote, made a tally and determined a winner. It was a landslide, folks. Obama: 25. Romney: 0.”

Move over Nate Silver. Paigey’s preschool is nipping at your heels.

And who knows, Paige’s personal prediction might also come true. Maybe Matt Romney will be the president in 2016. Whoever the hell he is.

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Control Freak Mom

Posted: November 5th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, Holidays, Kate's Friends, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Preschool, School | 3 Comments »

I admit it. I had three different costumes this Halloween. And I’m not including the ones I made for the kids. I personally had three. There was the Mrs. Claus, the Preppie, and the Haunted Housewife.

I mean, it’s not like I spent gadzooks of time on the last two—those were sort of quick throw-togethers when I got sick of the unwieldy, uncomfortable Santa dress. Let’s just say the fur-cuffed fashion from the North Pole is a bit toasty given the Bay Area’s balmy fall temps.

But the fact is that no matter which of the costumes I wore this Halloween, it was the Control Freak Mom that I was really rocking. On the inside at least. And you can’t blame me. It’s not like I like being Control Freak Mom, it’s more that my judgment-challenged children force me into the role.

Though I did do what I’d call an impressive job of shoving Control Freak Mom down down down and outta sight. I guess you could say I managed to control my inner control freak.

Man, I’d be soooo good at therapy.

Anyway, take the pumpkin patch preschool field trip. (God help me.) Of all ten kazillion pumpkins at her disposal my darling Paige lovingly picked a dented, scratched-up little number with no stem. No freakin’ stem AT ALL.

And I’m telling you, someone would be hard pressed to find a crappy looking pumpkin amidst all the perfectly round, fresh-skinned gourds in the place. They’re genetically engineering pristine pumpkins these days. They practically have those carving kit stencil cut-lines already on them.  Paige had to look long and hard to find THE WORST pumpkin in that epic field of pumpkin perfection.

She hugged that thing fiercely like she’d found a Cartier tank watch in a hay bale. And instead of asking her why the hell she wasn’t going to pick a GOOD pumpkin, I just smiled weakly and took her picture.

SEE what a good mother I can be?

With the girls’ costumes I also had to suppress the Perfectionist Creative Director Control Freak in me. Though Kate did well deciding to be an Olympic gold medal runner. As a veteran of the newsy-timely costume myself, I thought her choice was a strong one. (Clearly something I passed along in the genes.) She had the running shoes, the little track skirt, a race number, and of COURSE a medal. But she needed the U.S. flag around her shoulders—right?! THAT makes it the perfect costume.

She was willing to drape the thing there briefly so her Obsessive About Photo Documentation Mother could take some pics. But after our extensive shoot (which DIDN’T make us late for the Halloween parade this year, thankyouverymuch) she tossed the flag aside and said breezily, “Yeah, I’m not taking that.”

WHAT?!? It is ALL ABOUT the flag with that costume.

But you know, I just folded that damn flag up all nice and popped it back in the bag to return to Target. Bless their flexible return policies.

Paigey was a mail carrier. Though it took several semantic attempts for her to settle on that term. When asked what she was going to be she knew Mail Man was all wrong. This is a gal who freaks out when you compliment her cowboy boots. “They are cow GIRL boots,” she’ll correct. So she told folks she was being a “mail girl.” This had gender-bendy San Franciscans thinking, “A male girl? Oh, nice idea, honey.”

She had the pith helmet, the blue shorts with the marching-band-like stripe down the leg, the U.S. Postal Service light blue shirt. I even bought her a pocket chain for her mail box keys and geeky black knee socks that totally rocked. But every time Kate and I suggested she have a stuffed dog biting her in the butt Paige started to cry.

Why you would ever CRY at such a brilliant suggestion is beyond me. It’s like sometimes I don’t even think the children find obsessively perfecting their costumes the highest calling in their lives. And yet, they expect me to be seen trick-or-treating with them.

Life can be so unfair. But you know what? Since I didn’t think a crying mail girl with a stuffed dog on her ass would be very in-character, I dropped the whole matter.

Let them pick crappy pumpkins! Let them have their costumes the way THEY want them to look. Whatever.

I don’t know, maybe if my kids and I were from the same generation they’d understand me better. Of course, I realize that by nature of the fact that I’m their mother this same-generation concept is an impossible dream. I mean, I’m not an idiot.

But at Kate’s school parade this notion really hit me. I was in my Haunted Housewife costume. You know—June Cleaver wig, gingham dress, tray of cookies right out of the oven, fake blood dripping from my mouth and eye sockets.

A girl tugged on my arm and asked me, “Kate’s mom, what are you supposed to be?”

I smiled lovingly at the little dear, leaned down and cooed in my best smooth mama voice, “A haunted housewife, honey.”

“Oh,” she said thinking. “Like, you mean, a haunted-house wife? Like… the wife of a haunted house?”

The poor lamb had never heard the term housewife. Which made me assume that “homemaker” would also be lost on her. She’d probably construe that to be some kind of residential architect.

Which wouldn’t be all that bad really, but of course I’d need to be carrying some AutoCAD drawings for that costume. Duh.


The Name Game

Posted: August 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, Blogging, Little Rhody, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Summer, Travel | 11 Comments »

On the brink of my eighth year of marriage I’ve discovered the key component of successful matrimony: that both parties find stupid, ongoing jokes hi-larious.

This is what it is like in my marriage. There are things that are so horrendously obtuse–absurd things that we’ve joked about for years—that we still laugh wine out of our noses about. Yes, it’s the spewing of wine from our nasal cavities–a sort of pinot noir neti pot cleansing—that keeps our love alive.

That, and we both hate mushrooms.

Anyway, one of the things we find freakin’ side-splitting has to do with names. And pretending we regret what we named our girls whenever we hear another, well… ‘noteworthy’ name.

Of course, the names don’t even need to be first names. Anything ridiculous will do.

Take last night. Had we been watching the Olympics together (versus me watching on my parents’ TV in Rhode Island and Mark watching LIVE in London), when the female swimmer Ranomi Kromodijojo’s name appeared on the screen, in a matter of seconds either Mark or I would say, “Remember when we almost named Kate Kromodijojo?”

I know, I know. It’s only funny to us.

Opportunities for this name game ABOUND. And thank God, really, because our marriage is strengthened mightily every time we repeat this joke.

Just this weekend, with Mark nowhere in sight, I was visiting friends in Connecticut who offered to take me and the girls to an amusement park called—get this—Lake Quassapaug. QUASSA-paug? How freakin’ beautiful is THAT? I couldn’t resist. I turned to my friend’s niece Sarah and say, “Your parents almost named you Quassapaug you know.”

I got an excellent tween-aged whatchu-talkin’-bout-Willis look. Then she walked away.

Anyway, the past several weeks in Rhode Island have provided rich fodder for this game, specifically in the arena of Native American town names. Like, on the drive to my dad’s from Logan Airport we pass a town called Assonet. There’s just so much to love about that. It never fails to pique my stuck-in-second-grade sense of humor.

In fact, I believe on more than one occasion I’ve busted out in my best 80′s Newcleus voice, “Ass ON it. Ass ON it. Ass on-non-on-non-on ON it.”

Think of those poor soul’s at Assonet High. College admissions officers must accept them based on pity alone. Who cares about his SAT scores! Get that child OUT of that tragically-named town!

Yawgoo Valley, Wickaboxet, Mashapaug, Pettaquamscutt Rock, the Woonasquatucket River. If I had a piece of wampum for every excellent Indian name I’ve encountered this vacation I’d be a rich rich woman.

I can’t imagine saying these words in every day parlance. My friend’s son played little league against a team from Wanskuck. What do the kids from that team chant to psyche themselves up before a game? “Wanskuck! We don’t suck!”

A couple weeks ago I got fired up on the idea of renaming Paige Wampanoag (pronounced WOMP-uh-nog) after a small, un-impressive highway—the Wampanoag Trail—we sometimes take to Providence. After several weeks of blissful Rhode Island livin’, it seemed a fitting homage. Or rather, a wicked good idea. (We’d also considered Sachuest for Paige, to honor our favorite Newport beach, since it’s other name, Second Beach, wasn’t as pretty with McClusky.)

As for big sister Kate, I was thinking of rebranding her with a more food-related moniker: Little Neck. You like?! Quahog (pronounced KO-hog)—the giant hard-shelled clam the state’s renowned for—is another contender, though we could always employ it as a middle name.

Anyway, I’m en route to New York to the annual BlogHer conference. I had grand plans to redesign this blog before the event—like making the push to get in shape before your wedding day. I even considered renaming the thing. But as you can see, I never quite got around to it. And honestly, the way my brain’s been working this summer, it’s probably best I didn’t.


Little Miss Death

Posted: July 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging, California, Cancer, Death, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting | 2 Comments »

While your daughters’ minds are filled with unicorns, rainbows, and kitty cats, my kid’s current obsession is death. And I only wish I was kidding.

We’re in Rhode Island for our epic summer visit. Apparently the humidity has clouded my writing brain. Or maybe it’s the gin. At any rate, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. To make up for it I’ve been putting on fireworks shows around the country to keep you entertained. Hope you’ve been enjoying them.

But Paigey’s fascination with death started in California. It’s been several weeks now. She asks me things like, “Who is the first person what died?” and “When you die where do your thinkings go?” These are all excellent questions that make me certain she’s the next Nietzsche.

I never know what to say to her other than, “That’s a good question, Paige.” Because really, who WAS the first person to die? And how much did that have to freak out his roommate?

Of course, as with most of the embarrassing things kids do, Paige likes to broadcast her perverse interest to others. On a recent playdate she walked into the kitchen to inform her friend’s mom, “You’re going to die some day. Everyone dies some day.” Then, “Can I have some milk—in a sippy cup?”

And if her big sister ever gives her a marble, a dried-up Chapstick, or some other worthless trinket, Paige invariably will ask, “Can I keep this? For real? Until I die?”

At the rate all this to-her-grave crap collecting is going, Paige will be on Hoarders by age seven.

At least Little Miss Goth tends to be more easy-breezy than macabre. So I haven’t been speed-dialing therapists (yet). Like, a few weeks ago, while sitting in traffic in Berkeley she looked out the window from her car seat and softly crooned, “Puppies die… Kitty cats die…” I can’t remember the other lyrics, but all in all for a spontaneously generated song it wasn’t half bad. Kinda Joan Baez meets Joy Division.

When I do worry is when she says something like, “I wish I was a baby. That way I would have a long long time until I die.” Those comments make me panic. I don’t want anyone in my family thinking about returning to the diaper-wearing days. We are PAST that, kid. Okay?

Friends recently visited us in Oakland from Chicago. By day we wrangled our girls around town and by night we wrangled cocktails on our front porch. At one point, as I delivered a tray of whiskey sours, it struck me that the woman from the couple is a preschool teacher. So I inquired about our Mini Morticia. Should we be concerned?

Turns out our friend—a child development expert, no less—said P’s morbid mania is actually age-appropriate behavior. (She’s four.) At least, after a glass of wine, one gin and tonic, and half a whiskey sour, that’s what she said. And I’m choosing to believe it.

Especially since the girl isn’t ALL hell and brimstone. She’s a smiley little thing, and friendly as a puppy. Paige has other interests besides death, like orphans, hats, homeless people, the San Francisco Giants, and the blue-eyed boy Jonathan from her preschool. She’s a surprisingly well-rounded little weirdo.

The other day Paigey circled my desk like a shark as I checked email. “What’s the sick you can die from?” she asked while combing the ends of my hair with a small pink My Pretty Pony brush.

Me, distracted. “Cancer?”

“Oh yeah,” she said. And a minute or so later, “How do you make a C again?”

I tore my eyes from my screen and outlined a C on a pile of papers with my finger.

Paige took the handle end of her plastic brush and traced a C on my upper arm.

“What’s the next letter?” she asked.

Me, engrossed in the contents of my computer: “The next letter in what, honey?”

“In cancer!” she yelped, with the handle of her brush poised intently near my arm.

I snapped my attention away from my screen and looked at Paige. “Whaaat? Please don’t write cancer on me, Paigey. Even if it’s not with a real pen.”

Her eyes grew wide, “No, Mama!” she wailed. “NOT to have! I make for you not to have!”

The girl was administering some shamanistic death immunization with a My Pretty Pony hairbrush. And given all she knows about the subject, I probably should have let her finish.

Instead I closed the lid of my laptop and said, “How ’bout we get some ice cream?”


Pink Eyes, Bare Butts, and a Long Car Ride

Posted: May 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Bad Mom Moves, California, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Summer, Travel | 3 Comments »

The past two months ’round here have been all about travel. And before you get some Brangelina-like image of us globe-trotting to exotic locales, let me clarify. We’re not talking family fun. More like a series of work trips. In rapid succession.

Mark and I have been tag-teaming on childcare like some Spandex-and-rhinestone clad husband and wife wrestling team. Lately our kids have no idea who’ll be picking them up from school. Mom? Dad? Some babysitter? Bueller?

It started with the girls and I spending Spring Break in Palm Springs with my sis. That was, in fact, a vacation. The day after we got home Mark went to Baton Rouge for work. Then I jetted to a writers’ workshop in Dayton. (You know… London, Paris, Dayton, Ohio). And let’s see, we had about a week at home then I left for Miami. Followed days later by Mark doing Dallas. Or rather, going there on business.

Kate’s school camping trip was right after Mark got back from the Lone Star State. And it’s a family affair, not something you stick your kid on a bus for, wave goodbye, then go home, crack a few beers, and revel in sweet childless-ness.

Group events like this don’t rate high on Mark’s social scorecard. Even when he’s not fried from work.

Frankly, even I—the turbo extrovert—was feeling more ‘hafta-go’ than ‘wanna-go.’ But the girls’ve been talking about this trip since we went last year. And we figured once we got there—after the FIVE-HOUR drive—the splendor of the gorgeous river, the charm of the rustic cabins, horseback riding and s’mores-making, and the kids romping in nature like wood nymphs, would make it all worthwhile.

So Friday Mark took the afternoon off work and at 1:30 we set out. Half-dead or not, we were camping.

More than three hours into our journey and deep into a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book-on-CD, Paige bellowed from the back seat, “My EYE hurts!”

I twisted around to take a look and saw green globs of gunk swimming in her peeper.

Kate yelled with a mixture of joy and disgust, “It looks like SNOT! She has snot in her eye!”

I sighed and turned back to Mark, “It also looks like pink eye.”

We were in the middle of nowhere. Twenty-five minutes from a teensy town that was the last outpost of civilization before we got to the campsite.

I called our doctor who phoned a prescription into the wee town’s drug store. Then Mark and I whisper-strategized about what to do. I was loath to give up our plan, but we couldn’t bring pus-eyed Paige to a kid-packed weekend. Slipping her into the crowd and playing dumb would be poor form. (Although for a few minutes I did try to sell Mark on the idea.)

The girls were incredibly mellow and understanding when we told them we were going to have to miss the camping trip. They said, “No problem, Mom and Dad! We get it. These things happen.”

Oh wait, that’s not how it went at all.

No, they completely lost their freaking sh*t. “I have been waiting for this trip ALL YEAR,” Kate moaned like a petulant teen. Paige, ever the follower, chimed in with the same refrain.

There was hysterical convulsive crying. There was kicking of the seats in front of them (which Mark and I happened to be seated in). There was bartering, “Why CAN’T Paige go camping with the pink eye?” (Since getting it once as a toddler Kate calls conjunctivitis “the pink eye” like “the evil eye,” which is actually quite apt.)

And despite how unenthused Mark and I had been about the trip, the realization that we couldn’t go after all was surprisingly distressing. It’s confusing finding out you don’t have to do what you didn’t want to do in the first place—but had already planned and packed and driven hundreds of miles for.

Instead we were facing a pink eye quarantine home-lockdown weekend. Maniacally wiping down surfaces with disinfectant. Incessantly reminding our four-year-old to not touch her itchy eye. And freaking out every time our own eyeballs felt the slightest bit tingly. What fun.

At the strip mall drug store in Downtrodden Town, USA, Mark and I announced, “Paige, we have to put this medicine in your eye.”

We sold it all wrong. We might as well have offered to give her a shot too. She started shrieking, “No! NO. Nooooo!!!” Clipping a rabid badger’s toenails would’ve been a more pleasant undertaking.

So we had to get all parental straight-jacket on her—me leaning into her legs and holding her arms down while Mark pried her goopy eyelid open to squeeze in the drops. Did I mention this took place with her lying down on the sidewalk? Classy stuff.

To ensure no passers-by missed this scene Paige kept up a hearty howl, thrashing and kicking demonically. A teen-aged couple who’d stopped to crack open a Mountain Dew for their baby looked at our little sidewalk scene with disdain.

Not our finest hour of parenting.

Back in the car, an hour’s drive later—headed back toward Oakland—we stop at an In-n-Out Burger for dinner. By then Paige’s eye was swollen near shut and the skin half-way down her cheek was pink and puffy.

While waiting for our food at an outdoor table, Kate had me time her while she ran between garbage cans. Paige sat snorfling snot and eye goo onto her lovey Panda-y, which had become a teeming breeding ground of conjunctivitis bacteria. (Mental note: Douse Panda-y in gasoline and torch him at first possible opportunity.)

When Mark came out with our food, he pointed out a couple who were changing their baby’s diaper on a nearby table. Sure, we had a kid with us whose face was inflamed, seeping pus, and as contagious as the Ebola Virus. But STILL. A diaper? On a restaurant table?

I don’t think that’s what In-n-Out had in mind when they coined the term “animal style.”

Maybe these brilliant bio-hazard spreaders, the parents of the Mountain-Dew drinkin’ baby, and Mark and me with our sidewalk-splayed straight-jacket approach to eye care could form some Pathetic Parenting Alliance. There’s so much we could learn from each other.

I dove for our camping-gear crammed car. I didn’t care how long the trip home took, I was hell-bent on getting back to civilization.

After more than two hours of hellish highway driving (and more mind-numbing Mrs. Piggle Wiggle audio books) we pulled into our driveway. It was 8:30 on Friday night. Seven hours after we’d left.

It was the longest drive ever taken for a fast-food meal.

But by Sunday I realized the miraculous. We’d spent a wonderfully mellow two days all together. At home.

The girls and I planted flowers. Mark hit golf balls. We went to bed early and slept late. Kate brought Pink-Eye Paige breakfast in bed, and showered her with home made Get Well cards. We made s’mores on the gas stove. And Mark even found a way to administer eye drops that made Paige giggle not scream.

Sunday evening—when P’s eye was returning to normal—an impromptu cocktail party sprouted up on our porch. Neighbors brought cutting boards loaded with cheese, olives, and bread. Mark whipped up cocktails and handed out beer. And the neighborhood kids jump-roped and biked up and down the block while we peered through sheets of mylar at the eclipse.

It was exactly the weekend we needed.

Sometimes the universe just takes care of you, and points you in the right direction. Even if it takes a seven-hour car ride to get you there.

* * *

Want to read a truly terrifying travel tale? Check out my original Travel Don’ts post. It’s a *motherload* classic.


My Kid Can’t Spit

Posted: April 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Miss Kate, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting | 8 Comments »

I don’t know about you, but I’ve just about had it with all the sickeningly proud parents in my suburban enclave. The next minivan I see with a “My son made the honor roll at John Muir High” sticker, I’m going to aim at, accelerate, and ram into. You know, go all Fried Green Tomatoes on their ass.

What about the under-achieving children of the world? What about the kids who didn’t get perfect attendance, but were only sent home once for biting someone? Where’s the bumper sticker for the student who amassed the most tardy slips? Or won an award for wearing the best Halloween costume—in April?

To balance the scales, today I’m celebrating all the things that my kids can’t do.

Like, my oldest daughter, Kate—the six year old. I’ll give her an article of clothing, a sweatshirt say, and kindly request, “Could you put this in your room, please?” Inevitably I’ll find it later strewn across the kitchen floor. Or balled up on top of the toilet tank. I’ve found panties that were hamper-bound wedged amongst the rain boots by the front door. I even found socks in the cracker cabinet once (though that may’ve been my doing.)

It’s not like in our Craftsman cottage Kate gets lost on the epic voyage to her room. It’s not clear to me what happens in those few short steps. So I’m considering rigging cameras through the house and building a room with a wall of TV monitors. After the kids go to sleep, instead of watching Mad Men or reality cooking shows, Mark and I can tune into the day’s tapes and figure out what happened to that half-eaten plate of meatloaf that never made it from the dining room table to the kitchen after dinner.

What my little one, Paige, is dazzlingly bad at is… spitting. You may be frustrated that your child is having trouble mastering the multiplication tables. What sends mushroom clouds of steam out of my mama head is watching my four-year-old brush her teeth. The girl cannot spit toothpaste. She does this flaccid tongue extension over and over, like a dog you’ve given peanut butter to (don’t pretend you’ve never done that). There’s no energy, no velocity behind Paige’s spit.

This also infuriates Kate, who is wired like her mama, and who, at age six, happens to be an authority on absolutely everything. Kate bellows, “Spit, Paigey! SPIT! Like this!” and demos snappy little squirts into the sink.

Mark will pass by the bathroom to see Kate and I yelling, “Really just spit it outta there! Let it fly!” and will just shake his head and walk on.

One area where both my girls excel with inability is toilet flushing. Especially when the contents of the bowl are, well, solid. It’s like they somehow mixed up that hippie water-saving adage “If it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down” to “if it’s brown, let it stick around.”

Paige has gone so far as to showcase turds she was especially proud of, grabbing my arm and dragging me through the house insisting I needed to see “something” right away. How delighted I am to finally discover what it is she’s so rabidly proud of.

Their inability to depress the toilet handle is bad enough when it’s just us four in the house. When I hear Mark bellow a dismayed “Awww!” followed by a flush I know exactly what he’s encountered. I’m just concerned about this habit following the girls into their adult lives. At this rate, they’ll never hold onto a college roommate and will end up living at home forever.

There are other things my girls can’t do. Kate can’t whistle, which distresses her. And despite being part of a youth choir, she also can’t sing. Paige still can’t snap herself into her booster seat. Neither of them can type 100 words a minute, speak Latin, or make a killer cassoulet. Oh, the list could go on and on, but really—I don’t want to brag.

You see, my children could be the cleverest, cutest, kindest and most talented accordion, guitar, or kazoo prodigies you’d ever meet. But even if that was true, you’ll never hear about it from me.

As for that recent email from the preschool informing us that some of the children have been playing a spitting game on the playground? I can assure you, that is not my kid.

What does your kid suck at? Leave a comment and let me know.


Paige’s Birthday Interview: Age 4

Posted: February 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Birthdays, Friends and Strangers, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Preschool | 6 Comments »

We recently had an all-girl bring-a-doll tea party for Paige’s fourth birthday. We set a long kid-sized table with nice linens, plates with doilies, and a remarkably-nice-from-the-grocery-store bouquet of roses. We cut PB&Js into animal shapes and grilled cheese into little squares, and stuck toothpicks with pink ruffly tops into pieces of fruit. We arranged everything on cake pedestals and fancy platters.

But the best part? Mark wore his tux and served the girls. He poured dramatic high streams of cocoa from a silver teapot into teensy china cups. He bent crisply at the waist to take in whiny requests like, “I want MORE mini marshmallows!” He returned folded napkins to girls when they came back from “the potty.”

It was a hoot.

Especially since Paige’s homies aren’t exactly the Fancy Nancy set. They enjoyed themselves, but were hardly holding their pinkies up or sending mini bagels back to the kitchen for more cream cheese. They were more like a soup kitchen crew, muttering incoherently at times, grabbing food off each others’ plates, and occasionally burping and scratching their crotches.

Good times.

Anyway, after Mark’s stellar performance I thought of a new standard us gals should set for selecting a male to breed with. Will the guy be game for catering to the needs of a gaggle of four-year-old girls with the grace and proficiency of Carson from Downton Abbey? If so, ladies, grab that man and drag him down the aisle.

Kate reminded me this morning that I haven’t interviewed Paige for her birthday yet. It’s so helpful having her around as a second-tier mother.

So this morning, in keeping with my better-late-than never approach to birthday interviews, I sat down with Paige and asked her a few questions.

Me: If a genie could grant you one wish, what would it be?
Paige: Flying.

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Paige: A mermaid. [Pauses, thinking.] I need a tail.

Me: What kind of job do you want when you grow up?
Paige: Be a nurse.

Me: What do nurses do?
Paige: Give shots.

Me: Where do you want to live when you grow up?
Paige: Penn-siv-vania.

Me: Do you think you’ll have any animals?
Paige: YEAH!

Me: What kind?
Paige: Camel.

Me: Do you want to get married when you grow up?
Paige: No.

Me: Why not?
Paige: Because I’m going to be a mermaid.

Me: Do you want to have children?
Paige: Yeah.

Me: How many.
Paige: Seven. That’s a lot of kids.

Me: Do you feel different now that you are four?
Paige: Way older. Way way way way.

Me: How so?
Paige: Because I’m almost 8!

Me: What is your favorite color and why?
Paige: Turquoise, pink, and purple, and violet. Because one is that turquoise is the color of the sea, and one is that pink is the color of the sunset. And purple when you mix it up with pink it makes violet.

Me: Who is your best friend and why do you like them?
Paige: Penny. [A girl who used to go to her preschool who she hasn't seen--or mentioned--in months.]

Me: Why?
Paige: Cute.

Me: Now that you are four, do you think you’ll have a boyfriend?
Paige: Yes. [Giggles.]

Me: What do you think about world peace?
Paige: World peace? I love you! [Laughs.] I said I love you. I love world peace.

Me: Do you know what it is?
Paige: No. That’s why I said I love you!

Me: What is your favorite TV show?
Paige: What is that polar bear movie?
Kate: Knut.
Paige: I love Knut. And Sponge Bob Square Pants.
Me: Huh. I’m pretty sure you’ve never seen Sponge Bob.

Me: What’s your favorite thing to do that’s not TV?
Paige: Have candy. And do cartwheels.

Me: What’s your favorite activity that’s not about candy?
Paige: Painting and drawing. And getting candy.

Me: What do you like most about school?
Paige: Learning about dinosaurs.

Me: What have you learned about dinosaurs?
Paige: The way how they roar.

Me: What do you like to do in your free time?
Paige: Play mermaids. [Really? I have never witnessed this. If we were on The Newlywed Game my answer to this question would be "look at books." And we'd get in a fight later back stage that she came up with "play mermaids" totally out of the blue, leaving that other couple to win the new bedroom set.]

Me: What is your favorite thing about yourself?
Paige: [Incredibly long pause to think] I like peacocks.

Me: What is your favorite song?
Paige: [Thinly singing] Ba ba black sheep do you have any wool? Tell me, tell me… Wait. [Walks out of room.]

Me: Where are you going?
Paige: To get a songbook. [Returns with a binder of her preschool artwork.]

Me: If you could have any super power what would it be?
Paige: Being a super girl.

Me: What can a super girl do?
Paige: Have power. And have a cape.

Me: What is your very favorite thing to do?
Paige: Make a cake.

Me: What are you most afraid of?
Paige: Bumble bees.

Me: What about them?
Paige: They have stingers.

Me: What is your favorite thing about me?
Paige: I love you. I love when you read.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Daddy?
Paige: I love you.

Me: Okay, but what is your favorite thing about Daddy?
Paige: He can read.

Me: What is your favorite thing about Kate?
Paige: She can read.

Me: What’s cool about her?
Paige: I like her.

Me: Why?
Paige: Because she can read!

Paige: I don’t want to do this any more. Can you just read?

I finally did relent and read to the gal. Even I can take a hint.

Happy birthday, dear Paigey. I love you more than you’ll ever know.


The Buzz Around Here

Posted: January 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Discoveries, Doctors, Firsts, Food, Milestones, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Preschool, Scary Stuff | No Comments »

Paige has developed a bizarre and extreme fear of bees.

I have no idea what brought this on. Every time I ask her about it I get a different answer. “Luke at school likes bees.” Or, “No reason.” Or, “Because bees go buzz.” Or, “Can I watch Sesame Street?”

When you want to get to the bottom of something with an almost-four-year-old, they’re often the worst ones to ask about it. Mark and I refer to this as the “bad witness” syndrome. What your preschooler reports ain’t always what happened.

But I know for sure that she has not been stung by a bee, negatively interacted with a bee, or read any scary books or seen videos about bees. I have not punished her by saying, “If you hit your sister again I will stick your hand in a bee hive.” I swear I haven’t. Even if I’ve maybe sometimes wanted to.

I have assured Paige that bees don’t come into the house. I’ve told her that if you don’t bother bees, they won’t bother you. I have remarked that in wintertime, bees aren’t even around because of the cold. (Though this is a bit of a hard sell with our NoCal winter this year. It’s been sunny and in the 60s for most of December and January.) I even said that if you DO get stung by a bee, it hurts for a little while, then goes away. No. Big. Thing.

But for a few weeks now she will wake up in the middle of the night and ask questions like, “Are there any bees in my room?”

Come morning she’ll drop her cereal bowl into the sink and troop off to her room to get dressed announcing, “I’m not wearing anything black today.” This because Kate’s preschool teacher told her FOUR YEARS AGO that the color black attracts bees. A fact that Kate has cleaved to, out of scientific interest more than fear. Therefore any time we come anywhere near a bee or perhaps the kind of flower a bee might like Kate does an inventory of all the clothing we’re wearing to ascertain whether any of us is in imminent danger.

It’s a shame too, since black looks so fab on Paige with her blond hair.

Last week I took Paigey to a pediatric allergist. She’s had some puffy-lip/barfy reactions to walnuts and I wanted to see if there was a legit issue at hand. The allergist was one of those super-goofy-friendly docs who works with kids and could probably make so much more money gruffly caring for adults, but is just too kindhearted and caring and gooberish. Thank God for folks like him, I guess.

Anyway, he was so desperately hell-bent on connecting with Paige I nearly had a diabetic seizure from his saccharine-sweet “Your lovey looks like a wonderful friend” and “Baba… what a nice name for a stuffed sheep” banter.

Paige was even a bit leery of the dude.

He went on to remark that if Paige was three she must be learning how to read, and started quizzing her on what letter makes the sound “rrrr” and, “What is the sound the letter ‘e’ makes?” Hell, I’m not even sure what sound the letter ‘e’ makes. Is it eeee or eh? Anyways, I don’t know what preschool HIS kids go to, but Paige comes home from school with paper plates that have colored cotton balls glued to them and with glitter ground into her scalp. And I don’t think it’s from rigorous academic sessions.

Anyway, Mr. Overly Nice Guy ended up balancing out Paige’s perception of him when he pricked up and down her back with tinctures of various allergens. It was not only pokey and painful, but many of the spots turned into itchy burning pits that she could neither reach nor scratch.

And worse than that the nurse wrote numbers on her back in red pen to indicate what each allergen was. On the car ride home between sobs she relayed to Mark on the phone, “They wrote numbers on my baaaaack!!! In PEN! I want to go home and take a baaaaath!!!”

Turns out she is allergic to walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts. This prompted me to tell Goofy Allergist Doc, “I guess I’ve got to get her off that hazelnut coffee in the morning.”

To which he looked at my blankly and said, “Really? She drinks that?”

I assured him she does not drink hazelnut coffee (while sounding out the words in The Wall Street Journal). She’s more a double-espresso kinda gal.

When, oh when, will the rest of the world understand my sense of humor?

Anyway, now we’re one of those families who carry epi pens with them everywhere and have the preschool stock-piled with various meds. We have a kiddie rainbow-beaded Medic Alert bracelet on order. And I’m an even-more-avid food label reader. Were nuts processed in the same facility where this granola bar was manufactured? Was there “shared equipment?” Does this fruit chew possibly contain “trace elements” of nuts?

Doc Smiley told me that if the equipment in question is used to process almonds—no problem! Paige is not allergic to almonds. So he told me to just call the different companies to find those details out.

For real?

Me: “Hello, Nabisco? It’s Kristen. I’m wondering about the machines you got goin’ there. What nuts are we talking about?”

This does not seem like a call I’m likely to ever make. Not that I want to put Paigey in any jeopardy, God knows. But REALLY? Call the food manufacturer? I mean, who the frick do you ask to speak to? How many hours are you thrashing about in that corporate phone-tree quicksand before you eventually find an administrative assistant who is sitting in a cubical in St. Louis 2,000 miles from any actual food-makin’ “equipment” and really just wants to get you off the phone so she can get back on Facebook who gives you a vague, “Uh… I’m not sure” answer? Or worse, she lies just so she can return to her online solitaire game then update her status that the chicken salad she just ate for lunch was gross.

I’m supposed to trust her?

I think I’ll just be steering away from processed foods—as I try to do anyway.

And blessedly, Paige’s allergies are apparently mild. Not like some kids who see a picture of a peanut and break into hives. Benadryl will likely do the trick if Paige is ever exposed to something. The epi pens are for unusual, hopefully rare reactions. And, I think, just so I’m required to cram one more thing in my already unwieldy mom purse. I can’t get feelin’ all freed up now that I don’t have to carry diapers any more.

The allergist wants us to come back in a month just to check in. After this “lifestyle change” he said people often have many questions. Though I wonder how it is we’ve gone for nearly four years never knowing Paige had a tree nut allergy. (And is it just me, or are you also unclear about which nuts grow on trees? We didn’t have that unit in my science classes…) I mean, if we can just continue to do what we were doing up until now, seems like she should be okay.

Despite Paige’s tormented screams and wailing about her itchy-owie back, interspersed with rants about the numbers drawn on her—”Why numbers? WHY, Mama??”—I did manage to summon some rational thought to ask the doctor some questions, and one was about bee stings. In my mind bee stings and epi pens go hand in hand.

“Is she is more likely to be allergic to bees because she has a nut allergy?” I bellowed over the din.

And the answer it turned out is—no! There’s no relation to the nut and the bee thing.

Well, she may not have a physical allergy to bees, but she certainly seems to have a psychological one. I’ve just got to figure out what the antidote to it is. If any of you have successfully wrangled with similar sorts of preschoolers’ fears, I’m all ears.

I now also know to never write numbers on Paige’s back in red pen. And thankfully, that’s a lifestyle change I can easily accommodate.

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Mewy Cwistmas!

Posted: December 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cancer, Extended Family, Friends and Strangers, Holidays, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Scary Stuff | No Comments »

Last week I asked a mom at Kate’s school a casual question. And I’ve been feeling bad about her answer ever since.

It was at morning drop-off. I’d hustled Kate into her classroom on time. Phew! I was dashing down the school’s front steps, dragging Paige by the hand with the frazzled determination of a working mom with one more kid to ditch before fighting commuter traffic into the city. And I saw a mom I kinda know standing there. She was waiting to lead a tour.

“How’re you surviving the holidays?” I called over my shoulder. This, I later realized, is my go-to seasonal greeting to other mothers.

“Eh,” she answered, shrugging her shoulders. “I’ll be happy when it’s over. This isn’t my favorite time of year.”

It was not one of those eye-rolling oh-life-is-hectic-but-I’m-getting-it-all-done kinda responses. The reaction I realized I’d come to expect. My off-the-cuff question was the kind of quick check-in mamas often do at the holidays, back to school time, birthdays—when we’re feeling particularly taxed. These passing exchanges are sympathetic nods to each other. Our way of saying, I hear your life is crazy now, hang in there sister.

But this woman was clearly not referring to having too much shopping to do. She wasn’t feeling harried about having to juggle cookie-baking parties or get everyone packed for a ski trip. She wasn’t begrudging the maternal mayhem that’s often the necessary underpinning of busy, fun family times.

I’m not sure what makes her want the holidays to just be over—and that morning on the school steps wasn’t the time to find out. But several times since our brief exchange I’ve thought about her.

In fact, the next day we went to the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker. It’s become a tradition between my sister, my niece, Kate, and me. And this year for the first time Paigey was old enough to come too.

Getting there was painful. Kate argued about wearing a dress. She refused to wear tights. She sat on the floor of her room crying, wailing, and miserable. I finally consented to letting her wear yellow and gray striped socks—the only ones she deemed comfortable. (Not a great look with a red dress and black flats.) We scrambled into the car late and tear-strewn, with me threatening to not take Kate in future years if she couldn’t get dressed. I’m guessing this isn’t the best way to manage a child with sensory issues around clothing.

But our fashion meltdown wore off somewhere between Oakland and San Francisco. The local all-Christmas radio station plus the pretzel snacks I’d grabbed took hold. And as we walked up the grand steps of the SF Ballet, fake snow flurries pumping out over the sidewalk, I got a deep hit of just how lucky we were to be there. That we live in this amazing cosmopolitan place. That we can afford this beautiful magical experience each year. That we are happy, healthy, and together, and spiffed up in our best winter coats—even if Kate’s socks were all wrong.

The thought of the mother at Kate’s school zipped through my head, and I took a big breath and exhaled before walking in. We are here, I thought, and this is so amazing. It was like the Ghost of Christmas Present came and tapped me on the shoulder. “Be here now,” she said. “Hug your daughters. Drink it in. Not everyone gets to do this.”

Message received.

A few nights later my sister had a Christmas party. Her huge Victorian was packed with adults, kids, food, dogs, a roaring fire in the fireplace. At one point Mark gave Paige a bite of the cookie he was eating. One of those Magic Cookie Bars with the graham cracker base, a mid-layer of chocolate, and walnuts on top. They scream of the the Bruno house circa 1979. And I love that my sister still makes them.

Within minutes Paige was in a crying fit. She was thrashing on the couch, yelling that her tongue felt funny and that she wanted water. I somehow attributed her behavior to the late hour and the crowd. But then I realized it was the nuts. Weeks earlier she’d had an encounter with walnut oil and her lip swelled up. D’oh!

Before swallowing the full dose of Benadryl, she barfed everywhere. And I had a full dose of maternal guilt for having ignored the earlier warning sign.

Poor lamb. I’d call her doctor first thing in the morning to schedule allergy testing.

In the meantime I took note of my visit from the Ghost of Christmas Puke. Seems impossible to get through the holidays without him stopping by.

On Wednesday we went to my friend Lily’s house to make gingerbread houses. It was super fun and the holiday huts turned out swell. I even managed to not micro-manage the girls’ design choices! And the kids didn’t slip into diabetes-induced comas from all the candy they horked down while decorating (eat one, stick one to the house, eat two…). We took this as a small victory.

But the biggest victory no one even talked about was that Lily just had her last radiation treatment. After a brutal year of surgery, chemo, radiation, and endless doctor visits, she is DONE. Officially out of the woods. Yee-ha!

I’d sent her flowers with a note that said, “Thank freaking God that’s over.” It was one of those embarassing-to-recite-to-the-florist messages, but one that needed sayin’.

As I watched Lily help her kids shellack their house’s roof with frosting—rocking her fabulous wig with the style and beauty only she could—I noticed The Ghost of Christmas Past stroll behind her, then slip out the door, taking Lily’s crappy year with him. I’ve never been happier to see someone go.

Let’s keep that cancer stuff in the past, shall we? On to a happy and healthy new year.

In fact, we’ve had our own health scare around here. A close family member went through a series of tests that all seemed to be pointing in a very bad direction. But suddenly, the last most rottenly invasive—but decisive—test came back negative. Clean. Nada, zip, zilch.

Perhaps you heard me letting out an all-body phew when I got that call?

Can I say THAT really knocks things into perspective? Your shopping may not be done, and the star on your tree might be missing, but someone called and said “the test came back negative.”

That’s all the gifts I need, thanks. The garland on my mantle may be a bit bedraggled, but the things that matter in life are a-okay.

And really, my garland is actually quite perfect.

But thank you, thank you, Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be, for that mega-dose of things-could-be-worse. But they are thrillingly, blessedly, not. In fact, they are most excellent, with clear sailing ahead.

Knock wood.

It’s nearly dinnertime on Christmas day. After an abundant morning of gift-opening, we headed out with the girls and Mark’s parents for a hike in the Redwood forest. And my geek-chef husband is about to remove our free-range, organic, fancy-pants turkey breast from the immersion circulator. (Ah yes, just like mom used to make.)

I am not someone who’ll be happy when the holidays are over. For that I am eternally grateful.

Throughout these past couple weeks I’ve been sending out little wishes to that mama I talked to on the steps of Kate’s school. Here’s to hoping she enjoyed the holidays more than she thought she would this year.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

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