33 Things You Don’t Know About Me

Rune, a Norwegian friend my cousin and I made when we traveled to Paris a few years ago.  He was a Blues-playing bartender at a Paris Youth Hostel, who caught fresh oysters and wore a belt of harmonicas.

Last weekend, I was hanging out with friends when my cousin pulled me aside and told me she had been reading my blog:

“It’s not bad, but it comes off really stiff and formal. I hope my saying so doesn’t piss you off, but I think you’re used to academic writing and you need to loosen up. Speak with your real voice.”

“Hmm… Well, I’m trying to write in a conversational style, but I’m kind of a nerd. Maybe that IS my authentic voice.”

“No, no it isn’t,” she insisted. “Pretend you’re writing me an email and post THAT on your blog instead. THAT’S how you really sound.”

At first, my brain fought the idea. I mean, do we even have a single personality that we can call the “real” us? We are all different people at different times: at work, at home, at a formal dinner, talking to our grandmothers versus our friends, at a job interview… I mean, it’s not “lying” to walk into a job interview wearing business casual instead of a robe and bunny slippers, right?

Part of me believed my persona IS the real me, but if someone who knows me really well doesn’t think so, then maybe not. Maybe I’m like the guy who lets his hair down by loosening his tie when everyone else is wearing shorts.

I think there are two reasons that I (and probably others) have trouble expressing my raw, most natural self in writing:

  1. First, it’s because you think too much. It’s hard to act natural when you know you’re being watched. It’s like trying to take a candid photo when you’re aware someone’s aiming a camera at you. You freeze.
  2. Second, it’s because of fear. Every time you write something, it becomes a permanent part of the blogosphere that anyone and everyone can read, including your friends and family. Or worse, complete strangers who might judge you out of context.

So you can end up watering yourself down, presenting a bland, uncontroversial version of yourself that bores everyone senseless. You don’t connect to people as well as you would with your true personality, because you’re playing a role you boxed yourself into.

After doing some internet research about how to write more naturally, I came across this excellent article about how to break down the mental blocks that keep you from fully expressing yourself.

In it, the author talks about how to bring out your bolder, more colorful side. He shares 33 things about himself that he never told his readers before, then suggests other bloggers try the same.

It seemed like a fun, though scary, exercise. You reveal a bunch of stuff about yourself so there’s no turning back. I decided to follow his advice by taking the plunge.

Here we go:

  1. I’m unabashedly liberal, but have a lot of conservative friends. I consider myself a Social Democrat, meaning a liberal who wants universal healthcare, more family leave, and better-regulated industry. I’m also weirdly traditional and care deeply for my family, so many of my conservative friends think I’m secretly a conservative who doesn’t realize it. I figure that’s a compliment from their perspective.
  2. I consider myself a Unitarian Universalist. Unitarians believe there is a greater power out there, but that your spiritual journey is individual and personal. They don’t condemn anyone’s religion.
  3. Yet I’m a big traditionalist. I get really into celebrating all the major holidays and consider it culturally important. And fun. I also wear black to funerals and like to follow any traditions that don’t exclude people.
  4. I grew up close to one of my cousins. We’re a year apart in age and spent so much time together that we feel more like sisters than cousins.
  5. And we grew up with a lot of freedom. Anything went when we were at our grandparents’ house, so we did stuff like run around naked with flaming sticks when we were little. We also waded into creeks to catch crawdads and played with BB guns.
  6. My cousin and I figured out how to pee standing up when we were kids. She was jealous that boys could do this, so we figured it out one day. My mom was the high school French teacher at the local high school I attended and I guess she thought it was funny enough to tell her students about it, because the first day I showed up, some guy walked up and asked me if I was the girl who knew how to pee standing up. I think I imploded on the spot.
  7. I’ve been traveling through Western Europe since I was tiny. Since my mother was a French teacher who took free trips through Europe by working as a guidance counselor, I’ve been traveling through France, England and Italy since I was seven years old. Being able to visit other countries was one of the best things that ever happened to me and it opened up my perspective from an early age.
  8. I’m obsessed with Tudor history. When I was about eleven years old, I learned about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I was fascinated and went on to learn all about the British monarchy, especially Tudor history. You want me on your team if Tudor history comes up at a trivia game.
  9. I’m obsessed with European history in general. There aren’t a lot of women in American textbooks. We’ve never had a woman in charge and little girls in America don’t leave school with the impression that women have ever done much besides sew flags and become pop-stars. So when I went to Europe and found out about women like Joan of Arc, Marie Antoinette, Queen Elizabeth, and Eleanor of Aquitaine, it rocked my little girl world.
  10. I was a weird kid… I did stuff like take a shoe box to elementary school and put it on the corner of my desk, grabbing it protectively whenever anyone walked by until kids were desperate to know what was in the box. I just wanted to see what would happen.
  11. Who always had strange friends. Friends from different countries, guys who play Dungeons and Dragons, whoever wasn’t part of the “in” crowd was on my team.
  12. My friends are really funny. The world is a confusing, sometimes dark, place and I think a sense of humor is one of the best qualities a person can have. Luckily, my friends are hysterical.
  13. I love studying language. I’ve studied French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic. They made me learn Arabic when I was in the Army, but my French is much better.
  14. I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag. I have a horrible sense of direction and get lost all the time. It’s a running joke in my family and it was really bad when I lived in Los Angeles. One time, I thought my car had been stolen and it turns out I’d been searching through the wrong parking garage for an hour.
  15. I started out as a Music Performance major. I played the flute growing up and was very serious about it. I went to Tanglewood and Interlochen music camps and competed in a billion contests.
  16. I’m bad at remembering dates. I’m not good at memorizing dates or other specific information, even though I used to memorize entire concertos. I’m more a “gist” person than a detail person.
  17. But I’m a bit of a neat freak. Clutter freaks me out and I like everything organized. Mostly, this is because my brain is so scrambled that if my world is out of order, I’ll spend hours looking for my keys and forget what year it is.
  18. I used to draw compulsively. I used to doodle whenever I was awake, even on napkins in restaurants. One time, when I was a senior in high school, my great grandmother pulled out a huge stack of my napkins that she had been secretly collecting since I was about five. It was really  touching.
  19. I wrote a comic strip for my friends in junior high school. It was about four ballerina friends with all kinds of drama going on in their lives. I’d draw a new issue every few days and my girlfriends would pass it around between classes to find out what happened.
  20. My favorite movie is Man of La Mancha. The old musical from the seventies, with Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren. It’s considered a really bad movie, but I saw it when I was tiny and Sophia rocked my world. She was a big-bosomed, badass brunette in a world of sunny blonde waifs, and I still tear up when Don Quixote talks about how living in a world of honor and decency is worth losing your sanity over.
  21. I’ve always loved animals. I’ve had pet cats since I was three and used to carry a rabbit around on my shoulders. I’ve tamed feral cats, wild bluebirds, and raccoons. When I was little, I once nursed a baby bird with an injured wing back to health in a fort I built in my back yard. I had it for a couple of weeks before it recovered and flew away.
  22. I was a waitress in Germany for three months. I was a German major for a while after being a music major, and was part of a student work exchange program that landed me a waitressing job in the Black Forest over the summer. I learned a very obscure German dialect there.
  23. I was an Arabic Interrogator in the US Army. Needless to say, I didn’t fit in. I’m still not sure how that happened.
  24. I had a really gay friend in the Army. He actually moonlighted in musicals during training. I attended his performance of Caiaphas in Jesus Christ Superstar and you can’t be any more on fire than that. He was the usher at my first wedding.
  25. One time, when I was living in LA, I threw a drink in my boyfriend’s face and ran away. I mean, I literally ran out of the building and down the street. I had gone out to a 1940’s style club with my girlfriend so she could flirt with a trombone player and my boyfriend didn’t know I was there. I caught him flirting with the singer, so I walked up and threw my drink in his face before bolting out the door.
  26. I’ve reinvented my look many times. I was the nerdy kid who wore glasses and turtlenecks in elementary school who went on to wear leather pants and black lipstick as a college student in Los Angeles. I’ve gone though red-lipstick retro phases and been a blonde, a redhead, and many shades of brunette.
  27. I’ve been married twice. The first time was in the Army to a guy I had known for a couple of months, who was also in Arabic class. We held it together for seven years.
  28. I didn’t know if I wanted to have children. I was never the kind of girl who squealed when she saw baby pictures and I was scared whenever someone handed me a baby. I heard they have soft spots on their heads and I was afraid of touching them.
  29. But I had a surprise pregnancy one month after my second marriage. It happened so soon that people would immediately ask me “when were you married, exactly?” after finding out I was pregnant. I thought it was pretty rude and not very sly (they could have thrown a couple of other questions in first). But no, my husband and I didn’t *have* to get married.
  30. I was really afraid of being a mom. Since it came as a surprise, I hadn’t decided I was ready for motherhood and didn’t feel like a typical mom. I didn’t craft, didn’t want to cut my hair short and wear flats, and didn’t worry about what color to paint the nursery. I was terrified of not doing a good job.
  31. But I ended up loving it. I’m not saying it’s right choice for everyone, of course, but having a kid was one of the best things that ever happened to me and I decided to have another one on purpose.
  32. I like video games and mystery novels. I played Mass Effect 3 when I was pregnant and am playing Fallout 4 after the kids go to bed, whenever I’m not reading a detective story.
  33. I use my kids as an excuse to let my freak flag fly. I do things like make race-car sounds when I’m pushing my daughters around in shopping carts at the grocery store and will yell out stuff like, “We’re heading down Vegetable Alley! Now we’re on Cereal Street! Where does Captain Crunch live?”


Whew, I made it all the way through this experiment and I hope it helps me open up  when I write in the future.

Thank you, if you actually read through all of this. I think I might have made some breakthroughs and I challenge you to try it yourself.






To Carseat Manufacturers Everywhere

carseatSomeone needs to invent carseats that automatically snap around your kids like Ironman suits.

I’d definitely buy them, assuming they cost less than the car.

The World of Kid Food Vs Adult Food

pickyeaterI don’t know about the rest of the world, but in America, we believe there is such a thing as “kid food” and “adult food.”

Kid food is soft, bland, and unchallenging. It may be sweet, but never spicy. Adult food, on the other hand, includes stuff like sushi, bitter vegetables, and anything with pepper.

We even believe that science backs us up on this. Kids have more tastebuds, we are told, so they taste everything more intensely.

In fact, we think it might actually hurt them. Many moms panicked after hearing I used cinnamon in my children’s smoothies, gasping “Is that okay to feed them??”

But here’s my problem with that kind of thinking: kids around the world don’t eat the same way ours do. I’m sure Japanese kids eat sushi, and Scandinavian kids eat herring. I can’t imagine Eskimo babies digging into Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets before napping in their igloos, yet they survive.

So have we, for many centuries, since long before we could get our hands on boxes of rice cereal and jars of Gerber food.

Having had two babies myself, I’ve seen them go through periods where they will try just about anything…

And I mean ANYTHING. A couple of years ago, my daughter Brontë ate a spider.

We were in the shower together when I noticed a giant spider walking across the bathroom floor. Since we were both soaking wet and had shampoo in our hair, I reached out of the shower to drop a giant bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Wash on the spider, figuring I would flush it once we got out.

Then I hurriedly washed the shampoo out of my hair, closing my eyes as water splashed my  face.

When I opened them, not thirty seconds later, the shower door was open and Brontë had crawled out. The bottle of baby wash was laying on its side and spider legs were disappearing into my baby’s mouth as she chewed.

Jumping out, I pulled her mouth open to see if I could fish the spider out.

But it was too late. She had swallowed it and was giggling happily like she hadn’t just eaten an enormous spider.

AHHHHHH! I tried my best to remember what the spider looked like and started googling furiously… it didn’t appear, at least, to be one of the poisonous spiders people commonly find in California. Everything turned out okay.

But it was hardly the last crazy thing my kids tried to eat. I’ve had to pull cat food and hairballs out of their mouths as well as play-dough and loose change.

Yet somewhere  around age two and a half, my daughter Brontë started getting pickier and pickier about her food. She eyed dinners with increasing suspicion, nervous about anything I tried putting in front of her.  It might look like an innocent sandwich, but she seemed sure I’m trying to slip monkey brains in there somewhere.

It’s gotten really frustrating. How can a kid who once ate a dead spider become so picky?

Lately, she’s been wanting only “white” food. By that, I mean white bread, white pasta, and popcorn. The other day she begged me for Cream of Mushroom soup.

“You want mushroom soup?” I asked, happy that she wasn’t begging for more bread.

“Yes,” she chirped, “It’s white!”

Hmm. I’m not happy with her current level of fussiness, but here’s what I think may be going on…

Kids grow up all around the world, meaning there are different types of food available. If an Eskimo or Scandinavian kid refused to eat fish, for example, they would be in a world of hurt. So they are open to trying whatever’s around.

But there are also lots of poisonous foods in the wild. It’s easy to eat poisoned mushrooms or berries on accident. If a food goes rancid, it could kill you, so maybe there’s a natural aversion to anything green… it could be mold. You never know.

Since trying out brand new food is like playing Russian Roulette in the wild, maybe we evolved to stick to food we’re already familiar with. Thinking anything that looks or smells different is “weird” may have saved our lives, once upon a time.

If this is the case, then the whole “kid” vs “adult” mentality may be backfiring. We end up serving our babies sweet, bland, tasteless food for the first decade or so before suddenly throwing sushi and strong cheeses at them. It’s like going from the merry-go-round to an upside-down roller coaster.

No wonder it freaks them out.

I don’t know… anyone else have kids that would eat pretty much anything until one day, when they suddenly only wanted mac-n-cheese and spaghetti-O’s?





I Witness the End of Cool as My Husband Starts Saying Dad Stuff

Remember when you were kid, and even more as a teenager, how clueless you thought your parents were?

They had all this power and money, yet made baffling choices. Instead of eating pizza and  watching comedy, for example, your folks preferred watching golf and looking at paint swatches instead. It’s not a sane choice for anyone with options.

And it didn’t stop there. You’d watch in horror as your folks put on ridiculous jeans, always the wrong color and never conforming to current calf-grip standards. They failed to appreciate the awesomeness of new bands, apparently believing the music industry went straight in the toilet the year they happened to graduate high school or university.

They made corny, eye-rolling jokes. You winced at their use of outdated slang, yet there was nothing more cringe-inducing than hearing them bungle the new stuff.

You knew that when YOU grew up, you would never get that out of touch…

Well, I’m not sure if dorkiness happens suddenly or is more of a gradual decline, but I think my husband and I have made the leap. You want to know how I know? Because of what came out of my formerly-cool husband’s mouth last night…

We were all at the table eating dinner and Brontë was getting super obnoxious. John was tired after a long day’s work and she was resisting our every effort to quiet her shenanigans. She kept throwing a fit, wouldn’t eat, and absolutely refused to sit still.

John tells her to sit down and eat her dinner, and she bends around, howling and rolling on the floor. He picks her up and plants her on her seat, telling her to calm down and eat the food her mom worked so hard to make.

She grabs a forkful, puts it in her mouth, then pulls the fork out with the food still on it and starts belting out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while slowly pushing her sister’s plate away from her until she started screaming.

John barks at her to “cut it out,” so she grabs a handful of food, looks him square in the eye, and splats it directly on the floor.

That’s it. He stands up, points at her, and in a booming, authoritative voice, yells “ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A TIME-OUT? BECAUSE I HAVE A POCKETFUL OF TIME-OUTS AND I’M JUST LOOKING FOR A CHANCE TO GIVE YOU ONE!”

Bronte quickly sits down to eat, saying, “I no want time-out, daddy.”

I think I was as shocked as she was, not just from John’s volume, but because that had to be the most dad-sounding thing that ever came out of his mouth. Suppressing my urge to break into giggling, I sat quietly, hoping his threat of overstuffed pockets would do the trick and planning to tease him about it after the kids were in bed.

Thing is, I get it now… how cool people turn into out-of-touch parents. Because once you have kids, you ‘re the one suddenly setting examples.


Best not to follow this dad’s example

You can’t swear anymore, for instance. John and I used to swear. It’s a good way to make your point or provide emphasis.

But we had a rough time turning it off off and on when we needed to and you can’t have your toddlers running around dropping F-bombs. Delve into linguistic theories about the arbitrary nature of swear words all you like, but people just don’t react well to little kids with potty mouths. You have to clean up your act if you want to give them the right start in life.

But try being cool while yelling at someone without swearing. It’s harder than it sounds.

It kind of reminds me of my Army days, actually. In boot camp, we had to learn how to shoot, throw actual grenades, handle gas attacks, and skewer people with a bayonet, for example. The drill sergeants’ job was to intimidate us by insulting us and screaming at us all day long.

But despite its human-skishkabab tutorials, the military finds swear words offensive. They were completely off-limits to the drill sergeants, so we ended up with red-cheeked, burly men shouting “DOGGONE IT” in our faces while telling us to shut our pie-holes. We parents find ourselves in the similar position of having to invent G-rated intimidation techniques.

I find myself falling into a gray zone of slang, as well. I suspect we aren’t supposed to call things “off the hook” anymore, but I feel ridiculous saying it’s “on fleek.”

Life is different now. Instead of checking out new bands, you spend a ton of time playing happy kid music in the car and watching chirpy, cheerful cartoons to keep your little ones from imploding your eardrums. It’s tough to pull on your hipster pants with hours of Thomas the Train ringing in your head.

And since parenting is so exhausting, it’s harder now to work up enough give-a-crap energy to make sure you’re staying current with issues like bootleg vs. skinny jeans.

For example, yesterday, after wrestling with psychedelic kids for hours, I involuntary passed out on the couch. I couldn’t have been asleep for more than 15 minutes, but awoke to find Brontë digging into a twenty-pound bag of brown rice.

There was rice on the kitchen floor, rice on the kitchen table, rice in the living room, rice in the front room, rice on the coffee table, rice in front of the front door, rice… Rice, rice everywhere.

It made me want to write a Seussian-style poem about rice to torture Brontë with, since she hates rhyming so much. Rhyming is a great passive-aggressive technique in this house.

Instead, I tried to get her to help clean it up. I’ve found that kids make fewer messes when forced to help you deal with them. This method helped me finally put an end to the Great Poop Art epidemic of 2015, to give you a better idea.

But Brontë just wouldn’t cooperate. She kept dragging dolls out, rolling on the floor, and moaning. She even picked up handfuls of rice started throwing them.

Livid, I told her, “Brontë, you need to help me clean up the mess you made!”

Staring back, she yelled, “No!”

Taking a deep breath, I screamed, “YOU’RE ASKING FOR A ONE-WAY TICKET TO TIME-OUT LAND!”

Oh… crap

Doctor McStuffins Breaks Up the Princess Monopoly

We went to the pediatrician yesterday, where my daughter kept screaming down the hallways: “DOCTOR STUFFINS!!!” She just knew Doc McStuffins was working there and wanted to meet her.

And clearly, Doctor Stuffins must have been somewhere. Doctors hang out at hospitals and this is the only hospital Brontë knows about.

I could not talk her out of it, no matter how hard I tried. She would humor me for a while by taking my hand and pretending she gave up on finding the good Doc. But every ten minutes or so, the thought would haunt her: what if Doctor McStuffins was working just down the next hall?

Brontë would bolt away toward a new hallway as my eyes grew big.  I would race after her, but before I could grab her, she would throw a hand on each side of her mouth and yell as loudly as a three-year-old can (which is pretty loud) down a crowded hospital hallway: “DOCTOR STUFFINS! TIME FOR A CHECKUP!!!”

I’m guessing Brontë did the math and realized there was no way she could check every room before apprehension, but she hoped if she screamed Doctor McStuffin’s name enough times, she would hear it and come out to meet her. The chance to meet her hero was well worth the risk of getting into trouble.

And I’m glad her new hero is a doctor. Until recently, Brontë had been strictly loyal to  Disney princesses and I like new development for several reasons:

  • Doctor McStuffins has a good job

She is a doctor, though the fact she fixes toys for a living would seem to make her a mechanic or veterinarian (since many of the toys are animals). Still, she carries a stethoscope, wears a white coat and carts around a bunch of doctor equipment.

Sure, having a castle and staff would be pretty awesome, but after John and I totally dropped the ball on that Having Royal Blood thing,  princessing was no longer a viable career option. 

Granted, magic-toy-fixing is also a tough industry, but Brontë probably has a better shot of doing that than of helping lead a make-believe kingdom.

  • Doctor McStuffins isn’t a blue-eyed blonde

Not that there’s anything wrong with being blonde and blue-eyed, of course, but blue-eyed blondes have saturated the toddler girl market for ages. From Cinderella to Rapunzel, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a blue-eyed blonde, so it’s nice when a new-looking character comes along to shake things up.

And what is Doctor McStuffins supposed to be? Despite the Celtic surname, she has dark eyes and hair and an almondish complexion. Her ethnicity isn’t obvious, so I looked it up out of curiosity.

Turns out, she’s African-American. That’s cool, because I can’t remember there being any African-American Disney characters when I was growing up unless you count the Lion King characters, which is a stretch.

  • Doctor McStuffins doesn’t have a boyfriend

Again, there is nothing wrong with having a boyfriend, but love stories are pretty well covered in the Disney universe. Between Belle suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and Ariel abandoning her entire family to live on land for a guy she just met, it’s nice to finally see a show that doesn’t teach little girls how finding romance should always their top priority.

Besides, my daughter is three. There’s plenty of time for boys.

So, Brontë’s hospital antics were embarrassing but hilarious at the same time. I guess if my toddler is going to go on a public rampage, I’m glad it was in an effort to meet her new hero.




My Daughter Decides I’m an Artistic Genius

I’m not a morning person, never have been. Usually waking up in a grumpy fog, my arms tend to flail around for my coffee cup before I stagger at the bathroom sink to splash cold water on my face.

Children, on the other hand, LOVE getting up early, leaping out of bed with all the energy of prancing chihuahuas who are high on PCP. Once you have children, your days of sleeping in are over. Even on weekends.

Not that I haven’t tried. Last week, my three-year-old daughter Brontë woke up at the crack of dawn to pull me out of bed. The conversation went like this:

Brontë: You up, mommy?

Me (half-asleep): Mommy is asleep. Let mom sleep a little longer… Go play

Brontë: I want to play with you, mommy

Me: It’s still dark outside, Brontë

Brontë (singing to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”): Mommy and me, we like to play… I love to be with my mooooommmmyyyy….

Me (sighing): Fine, I’m up, you charismatic mastermind


Staying firm is so much easier when she’s throwing at fit, but dang it, she threw down the “I love you” card. Game over. How can you reject a kid like that?

And she pulled it off again this morning.

I had gone to bed late and the first rays of gray light were just breaking through the window blinds when a little voice cried out, “Draw me a fairy princess, mommy!”

Confused, I wrenched my eyelids open to find my three-year-old standing by the bed, a pen in one hand and little pad of lined paper in the other.

“Why don’t you draw a fairy princess?” I asked her. “You can show me when you’re done.”

“Noooooooooooo…. I want you to draw a fairy princess. Please, mommy? Please? Draw me a fairy princess?”

“I’m asleep, Brontë.”




“OKAY,” I finally said, too tired to keep arguing. Grabbing the paper, I leaned over the bedside table to hammer out a 30-second princess doodle…

It looked like this:

Not my best work


Knowing my audience, I included puffy sleeves, ballet slippers, a unicorn, and one of those princess cone-hats with a dangly scarf, because that’s the kind of thing I would’ve liked when I was a three-year-old girl.

I had been in a coma about thirty seconds before I knocked it out, but I still hoped it would at least be enough to convince her I was playing along.

I offered her my scribble…

Taking it, she stared at it openmouthed for a few minutes before asking me, “You MADE this!?” She said it with all the incredulity you would expect, had I just yanked a sheet off of Michelangelo’s David.

Holding the paper above her head with both arms, Brontë started jumping up and down, screaming, “THIS IS THE BEST, BEST, MOST PERFECT FAIRY PRINCESS I HAVE EVER SEEN! I WANT TO PUT THIS ON THE WALL NEXT TO MY BED SO I CAN SEE THIS PERFECT FAIRY PRINCESS EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.”

See, to us, it’s a barely-coherent scribble, but through my daughter’s eyes, it looked something like this:

My doodle in enhanced Toddlervision


Ah, kids. They may be easily impressed, but they make you feel so dang accomplished sometimes.






Six Word Story Challenge: Failure

“Soul pricing: now a buyer’s market”

This was my entry for this week’s Six Word Story Challenge at Sometimes Stellar Storyteller.

These writing challenges are so fun and anyone can participate. Why don’t you come play too? 🙂


Nominated for a One Lovely Blog Award :)

lovelyblogHello everyone!

One of my blogger friends, a sweet young woman from India, nominated me for a Lovely Blog Award.

Her blog is adorable and she is a sweetheart. You can check it out here:


I am so touched that she follows me and that she nominated my blog.

Here are the Award´s Rules:

  1. You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  2. You must  list the rules and display the award.
  3. You must add 7 facts about yourself.
  4. You must nominate 15 other bloggers and leave a comment on one of their posts to let them know they have been nominated.


Seven Facts About Me:

  1. I love animals, especially cats, and sometimes think I should’ve become a veterinarian or zoologist.
  2. I love traveling and studying different languages. I like to learn about how other people see the world.
  3. I love reading and buy a ton of books. I have books stacked everywhere, all over my house. Many different kinds.
  4. I have crushes on vintage movie stars, like Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart.
  5. I also have a fancy knife collection, including daggers, Bowie knives, and WWII knives, but I keep it well-hidden because I have two toddlers running around the house.
  6. I love the original Star Wars movies, and am convinced, deep down, that The Force really exists.
  7. I was once an interrogator for the US Army, though people who know me are shocked to find that out. I don’t have a military personality, but it was an eye-opening experience.

Here are my nominations:


  1. https://bhharned.wordpress.com
  2. https://crummycooksandcats.wordpress.com
  3. https://thebestwinesfromitaly.wordpress.com
  4. https://kirstwrites.wordpress.com
  5. http://violetsvegnecomics.com
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These are my adorable friends with lovely blogs!

If you guys want to participate, please let me know so I can read your facts!

Happy Friday, everyone! 🙂

Sibling Torture Tactics


My husband John and I were both only children, so by having two kids, we knew we were setting forth into a brave new world.

Both of us, like many only children, always dreamed about having a sibling we could pal around with. Of course, these were imaginary siblings, the pinky-swearing, truce-keeping pretend siblings who were so much better than the teddy bears we dressed up and had conversations with.

Actual siblings, if our friends’ siblings were anything to go by, tend to take your stuff and tell on you, whenever they aren’t busy punching you in the stomach. We witnessed plenty of that too, while growing up.

So when we had two kids of our own, we did our best to encourage a good relationship between them. We took pains to give our older daughter Brontë plenty of attention after baby Bridget was born, hand out toys and snuggles in even doses, and reward them for treating each other nicely.

One thing we’re quickly discovering, however, is that siblings fight, no matter how hard you try to prevent it. Now that Bridget is walking and talking, we’ve had to lay down a couple of rules: no hitting and no calling each other bad names.

Aaaaaaand… it has been fascinating to see our kids come up with workarounds.

  • Bridget Tactic #1: Holds something big and whacks her sister in the head with it, then immediately gives her an “I’m sorry” hug, before whacking her again.

Poor Brontë keeps falling for it. It sounds a lot like this: “Aww, her being nice now… OW!”

  • Bridget Tactic #2: Flails her arms around wildly while walking closer and closer to Brontë until Brontë *happens* to run into her arms.
  • Bridget Tactic #3: She has figured out that Brontë is so afraid of the dark, she’ll flip out if you switch the lights off during daytime. So, game over…. all Bridget has to do is run around flipping switches and her sister is a quivering mass of panic.

But Big Sister is developing her own strategies.

  • Brontë Tactic #1: “Not” calling Bridget names. It sounds like this: “SISTER! You are NOT a poo-poo head and you are NOT a stupid-head!”
  • Brontë Tactic #2: Rolling into a sobbing ball whenever Bridget bumps into her while yelling, “OW, I’M HURT! SISTER HURT ME!” Sometimes she has to purposefully walk into Bridget’s path to get bumped.
  • Brontë Tactic #3: Shoving her little sister into the bathroom, shutting the lights off, and closing the door. This one is very effective, as Bridget will immediately scream bloody murder.

Clearly, these kids are motivated to fight, and sometimes it’s hard to not laugh at their creativity.

But just as I was wringing my hands in parental despair, I witnessed an incident that reassured me that deep down, the girls actually do love each other:

We were recently all at the Children’s Museum in Sacramento, a fun place for kids with lots of toys. Bridget was playing with a big train set while Brontë was across the room, playing with blocks. There was a little boy building a giant wall out of cushioned blocks, a wall as tall as he was. Brontë decided it looked fun and tried to get in on his game.

Brontë walked over to him and smiled, saying, “HI! I’m Brontë!” The little boy scowled.

Brontë picked up a cushioned block and put it on his wall.

The little boy grabbed her block and chucked it as far as he could, saying “GO AWAY!”

Brontë looked hurt, but decided to give it another shot. She walked up to the boy, smiling, and asked, “Friends?”

This baby is about to rain down vengeance

The boy put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her to the ground, barking “GO AWAY!” I jumped up to intervene, but before I could, I caught sight of Bridget stomping across the room.

Bridget was livid. Fixing the boy with a cold, hard stare, she kicked a hole in his wall with her tiny foot. Then, like a Baby Godzilla, she kept kicking his masterpiece into rubble.

The boy thrashed and screamed, but what could he do? It was a baby.

When every last cushioned block was scattered to the floor, Bridget swirled around and smiled at Brontë before walking back to the train set.

Brontë watched her for a moment. Then, looking at me, said, “Her a good baby.”

Ah, siblings… it’s a complicated relationship, yes?







My Daughter Sets Me Straight About Girls and Chickens

Bronte pretends she is watering plants on the set of "Sound of Music"
Brontë pretends she is watering plants on the set of “Sound of Music”

Me: Hester and Rosie are girls. They lay eggs.

Brontë (slightly concerned): No, Mommy. Hester and Rosie are chickens.

Me: They are girl chickens.

Brontë (very patiently): Mommy… I? A girl. These? Chickens. Lay eggs. Chickens lay eggs. Not girls.


My daughter Brontë has very particular ideas about what it means to be female, possibly because she is the girliest little girl there ever was. She freaks out whenever she isn’t wearing the most glittery princess dress she can get her hands on, and the fluffier, the better.

I tried not to automatically surround her with tons of stereotypically feminine things when she was a baby, hoping to let her natural personality emerge instead of defaulting to social expectations. And… so much for that, since her natural personality is apparently made of unicorns, cupcakes, and princesses.


We have started gardening recently, as part of my overall strategy of teaching her where her food comes from and helping her build a sense of competence with ongoing projects. I don’t know much about gardening myself, but since she loves strawberries, we decided to start with strawberry plants.

She is really getting into our morning routine, striking poses while feeding chickens, collecting their eggs in a dainty basket, then watering the plants. In other words, she plays along, though I get the distinct sense that she’s just acting out pastoral fantasies. She’s a three-year-old Marie Antoinette playing peasant at her pretend rustic farm. She wears princess clothes and sings as she helps water strawberries with her pink Minnie Mouse watering can.

One of these days, I just know a bluebird is going to land on her finger and sing back to her.

And I guess I’m cool with it. As long as she aces math and science someday, she can wear whatever fluffy pink contraption she likes.