Category Archives: Holidays

Valentine’s Day Elephants

IMG_5492While I realize my recent blogging break is making me slow on the draw here, I still wanted to give my husband John props for planning a fun Valentine’s Day activity.

All by himself, he reserved us a couple of spots at this place called “The Painted Cork,” where you paint something (elephants, in our case) while drinking wine. He then packed a dinner of stuff like salami, cheese, bread, olives, and dark chocolate with sea salt, which ended up piled around our easels for the evening.

It was LOADS of fun, even if things got a bit rowdy after a couple glasses of wine and I ended up talking too much and going crazy with shadowy goth elephants because why not?

It was a tribute to our dating period, when he impressed me by taking me to an art class where we painted some apples and our apples were similarly different back then as well (his a perfect rendering of the example apple and mine a pile of shadowy ennui painted well outside the lines).

But in truth, it was bound to be an awesome time because I’m never gonna criticize a date my husband sets up all by himself because only a fool would discourage their spouse’s efforts to be romantic (or wash dishes or pick up or say nice things or bring home gifts) unless, maybe, he was taking me to a monster truck rally for the third time (I’d be game once) or giving me one of those godawful Big Johnson shirts that were popular a couple decades ago…

netflixddateAnd frankly, I’m proud of both of us for going out at all and NOT spending the night binging on Netflix while wearing sweats and eating hot wings (despite how much we swore we’d still be Cool Parents who Still Do Stuff ) because parenthood can be so draining that you sometimes want to collapse the first second someone’s not demanding anything.

But we didn’t. We put on proper clothes, listened to grown-up music instead of Disney, drank wine and talked about world events like actual grownups on a date. Yay!



Judgey Cakes and Baby Angst

Upon finding out that Halloween is soon and she could eat all the chocolate she wants, my Viking baby Bridget made this face:


Because she loves spooky stuff (Jack Skellington is her personal hero) and really, really likes chocolate.

This was welcome news, because Bridget has been on a real tear lately. Having lots of baby angst about baby issues, I guess.

Just the other day, she was stomping around the house, grumbling under her breath like a crotchety old man: “Pshh… NO Chuck E. Cheese. NO chocolate cake. Brontë wants SPACE! Cat won’t TALK to me…”

And it’s been tough for me not to laugh at these disgruntled toddler ravings. I just don’t feel right about openly mocking her pain. Especially because cats-not-talking has been a real sore point.

Withholding Cats

Like on Wednesday afternoon, when she was lying next to me, sucking her thumb, watching My Little Pony. Her enormous cat Raj jumps on the couch and plops down on her chest, his nose three inches from her face…

She pets him with her free hand for a second before knotting up her eyebrows in an angry, cartoon “V.”

I figured it was because she couldn’t breathe with a thirty-pound stripey cat cutting off her air supply, but she hadn’t flinched. She just kept staring him down, harder and harder, until she finally pops her thumb out of her mouth and yells, “Raj, why you NOT TALK!?”

(That’s got to be frustrating. All the cartoon cats talk on TV, like pretty much every other animal, and she’s known Raj for three whole years…  yet he refuses to say a single word.)

Judgey Desserts

Plus, her desserts have been judging her. We were eating some leftover chocolate cake for breakfast yesterday (because that’s the kind of responsible mother I am) when Bridget points out two chocolate chips on her slice.

Bridget: Look, mama… eyes!

Me (not quite seeing it): Oh yeah? Cake eyes?

She starts to take another bite before violently throwing the cake back on her plate.


Fighting the Establishment

I know waaaaay too much about this pony.

And lately, Bridget has been sassing her big sister too.

I was driving Brontë home from Kindergarten when Bridget kept going on and on, from the backseat, about “Tie-Back-Oh.”

What? I finally asked: “What is Tie-Back-O?”

Brontë explained: “She means ‘Twilight Sparkle,’ mommy.”

(OH. One of the My Little Ponies. The purple one who likes to read and hangs around with that dinosaur, Spike. Any current parent of toddler girls will know exactly who I mean.)

Then, Brontë set about fixing her baby sister’s pony-naming issue. It makes sense, because she wouldn’t want her sister to go embarrassing herself in serious toddler discussions about current issues.

So, she applied some of her Kindergarten teacher’s language techniques:

Clapping her hands on each syllable, Brontë said, “It’s TWI (clap)-  LIGHT (clap)-  SPAR (clap)- KLE (clap)!”


“Okay let’s try again, Bridget. Twi—Light–SPAR–KLE! Now, YOU!”

And Bridget said, “Okay: PEE… PEE… POO… POO!”

“NO!” Brontë screamed…  as Bridget convulsed in giggles.

(I have to wonder if firstborn children more readily understand the parental perspective because they get all that baby sibling sass when trying to be helpful.)

So… with her breakfast silently judging her, her cat giving her the silent treatment, and her big sister talking down to her with her fancy-schmancy college techniques, Bridget is truly looking forward to the annual chocolate-binging fest.











Sharks, Santa, and Farting Bear Ghosts…

So lately, my three-year-old daughter Bridget keeps getting attacked…

Just the other day, she was drinking a glass of water when out of nowhere she shrieked and threw the cup down:

“SHARKS in my cup!”

Bridget doesn’t always speak clearly, so I wasn’t sure if I’d heard her right.

“There are sharks in your cup?” I asked.

0ac7ebbb7abf94175f26382e9f96dcae--shark-pics-the-muscleBridget peered nervously, and very carefully, inside:

“Umm… YES.”

She showed me. There was a lot of ice in the cup. I tried to decide whether ice could look like shark fins if you squinted your eyes and had a wild imagination. Or if it was a mini-world of icebergs with sharks lurking underneath.

“Well, that’s scary,” I told her.

Bridget rolled her eyes.

“Just baby sharks,” she told me, like I was being a total wimp.


IMG_5407Of course, she was already on edge from all the ghost nightmares she’d been having.  She’d been screaming “GHOSTS!” at 3 AM, night after night, and I’d run to her room to find both of her arms held up in cartoon shock.

“It’s okay! Did you have a nightmare?”

She’d nod her head and tell me about the ghosts who were trying to “take her.” They were MEAN ghosts. One had a bear head and wouldn’t stop farting in her room.

Which must’ve really added insult to injury. This routine kept up until she finally had a dream about nice ghosts who smelled good.

What a relief after that nasty, farting bear.

And then Santa started menacing our house…

Bridget cut her foot two days in a row while taking a bath with her big sister Brontë.

And I mean, really CUT it… like she left bloody footprints all over the floor after getting out.

Which freaked me out. The cuts were smallish, but bled a lot, and I couldn’t understand how it happened.

I looked the bathtub over, inside and out, never finding anything sharp and finally figuring she must’ve somehow kicked the shower door tracks (since she was being very kicky at the time).

Still, I wasn’t sure:

“How did you cut your foot, Bridget?”

“Santa did it.”


“YES… Santa.”

“Santa, like Christmas Santa with reindeer and toys for the kids?”

“YES!” she screamed in persecuted agony. “Santa CUT my FOOT.”


She changed her story when her father came home, though.

When John asked why she had Bandaids on her feet, she explained that Poppa had:

  • Crawled into her shoe,
  • Crawled into her sock, and
  • Bitten her foot until it was bleeding

Which was strange, because she worships her grandpa and begs to go to his house so much I almost find it irritating…

So, I have NO idea why she would blame both the guy who brings her presents every year as well as her grandpa for her bleeding feet, but she absolutely wouldn’t let up. 

Maybe it was revenge…

You see, Bridget really likes men with mustaches. Her Poppa has a mustache and he seems to be the measuring stick against which she compares all men. Whenever she sees a guy with a mustache, for example, Bidgie insists he looks just like Poppa. Even when they’re completely different-looking people apart from both having a mustache.

Except my dad inexplicably just shaved his mustache, which did not go down well with my kids, who now say he doesn’t look “right.”

I don’t know if that’s why Bridget started accusing him of crawling into her shoes to bite her feet, but… it did happen at roughly the same time.

The following day, Bridget cut her foot in the bathtub again. This time on her heel, instead of her toe.

I was baffled.

I asked her how she cut her foot and she again insisted that Poppa did it.

“But Poppa is nice, ” I said.

“Yes, Poppa nice. He BITE MY FOOT!”

She seemed outraged. She demanded yet another Mickey Mouse bandaid then appeared to forget about the incident until later that night, when my parents came over to pick up the kids for a visit.

In front of them, I asked Bridget whether Poppa had been crawling into her shoes to bite her feet.

“Psshhh… no,” she said, turning bright pink and smirking. “Psssh…”



The 7 Deadly Holidays

Last week, a friend of mine wished everyone on Facebook a happy Thanksgiving by calling it the “eat whatever you want without feeling guilty” holiday.

She’s right, of course. Officially, Thanksgiving is about being grateful, but we all know the main focus is usually on making a ridiculous amount of food then trying to eat as much as possible.

It’s gluttony, really. One of the seven deadly sins.

Not that I’m against it. Giving into temptation every once in a while helps us build up enough willpower to truly deprive ourselves.

It’s an old idea. The Catholics have a long tradition of  letting loose during the Carnival festive season right before buckling down into all the self-denial of Lent.

Maybe they’re onto something… America may not have a Carnival festival per se, but we DO have 7 major holidays, which just happens to be the same number as the official deadly sins.


1- Thanksgiving: Gluttony

ckthanksgicing.jpgOfficial purpose: Being grateful for what you already have

I already  covered this one… On Thanksgiving, we’re all supposed to prepare a massive feast involving turkey, cheese-covered green beans, and a variety of seasonal gourds.

We then invite our families over to collectively lay siege to this food pile, not stopping until everyone is sleepy and no one can buckle their pants.

That’s when we break out the pumpkin pie…

2- Halloween: Lust

halloween-socialismOfficial purpose: Making yourself look unappetizing

Traditionally, Halloween is about kids dressing up in scary costumes and going from house to house,collecting candy. So maybe, for kids,  Halloween is about gluttony. They weren’t all that jazzed about eating turkey, after all.

But for adults, it’s the holiday where good taste fashion rules fly out the window. Naughty nurses, naughty witches, and naughty tavern wenches are EVERYWHERE.

It’s the one time of year women feel free to channel their inner dominatrix, parading around in glorified bikinis, weapons, and heavy eyeliner. Ironically enough, this all happens when it’s super cold outside.

3- Christmas: Greed


Official purpose: Caring about everyone else

Sure, Christmas is about the birth of our savior, trees with pretty lights, traditional songs and family togetherness. It’s lovely.

But who are we kidding? For kids, it’s all about the presents. They dream up wish lists for months, write letters to Santa, and wake up at the crack of dawn on Christmas, hungry to tear into that sweet new pile of toys.

And we parents absolutely break ourselves to make that possible.

4-New Year’s Eve: Sloth

best-funny-new-years-resolutions-2015-memes-6Official purpose: Welcoming the challenges of a whole ‘nother year

NYE is basically a grownup’s holiday that mostly involves going somewhere to sit around and drink until the clock strikes midnight and everyone kisses each other.

I’m gonna argue NYE is all about sloth, because it’s not only the holiday that involves the least work (unless you’re throwing a giant party), but also the one where everyone expects to magically improve their lives.

Yeah, we just cheer for the brand new year, thinking this new year will automatically make great things happen without us having to do anything. Okay, maybe we throw out a New Year’s resolution or two, but we definitely won’t be starting them until tomorrow.

5- Valentine’s Day: Envy

its-valentines-day-batman.pngOfficial purpose: Being grateful for your significant other

This is the holiday where some lucky women receive enormous bouquets of roses at work, in front of all their jealous coworkers, while others wonder why their deadbeat boyfriends/husbands never send them roses at work. Because apparently that guy has gotten a little too comfortable and it’s probably just a matter of time before he stops even bothering to sniff the armpits of his shirts before getting dressed to go out.

This is the day when people in seasoned relationships get to envy the emotional rollercoaster of fresh new relationships, and people in new relationships get to be disappointed when a bunch of dramatic gestures don’t end up leading to an incredibly romantic proposal.

Even worse, single people have to sit around being single while the whole world celebrates being in love. Hearts, chocolates, and chocolates in heart-shaped boxes… it’s the schmoopiest, most in-your-face kind of romantic comedy love propaganda on the planet, designed to remind anyone single just how tragic it is to be alone.

Of course, all those bells and whistles put a lot of pressure on couples. What if you’re exhausted and all you really feel like doing is ordering in a pizza and watching Netflix? This wouldn’t be a problem if you were single. Single people have nothing to prove and can do whatever they want. Lucky bastards…

6- Independence Day: Wrath

4th-july-jokeOfficial purpose: Patriotism

It’s tempting to say the 4th of July is all about Pride, because we Americans are feeling pretty smug about how awesome our country is and how smart we were to hide behind rocks while the British Redcoats lined up with giant X’s on their chest.

But I’m going to go with Wrath instead.

Why? Because the one thing that distinguishes Independence Day is our collective need to watch fireworks.  (Maybe we set them off ourselves, or maybe we go watch a professional show… it depends on how your city ordinances deal with handling explosives).

And while fireworks are beautiful, their thundering noises, flashing lights, and thrilling potential danger have been commemorating the weapons of war since 1777.

That’s right, everyone casually eats watermelon and well-barbecued meats while fondly remembering how we really decimated the British with our musket fire and cannon balls. Cause that’s what we ‘Muricans do to folks who TAX US WITHOUT LETTING US REPRESENT.

You wanna TAX our tea?? Well, we’re gonna THROW IT INTO THE WATER and start DRINKING COFFEE INSTEAD.

You like them apples, England?  How about you guys waltz into your nearest Starbucks, sip some lattes and think about what you did…

7- Easter: Pride

easter.jpgOfficial purpose: Celebrating the resurrection

Admittedly, saying Easter is all about the deadly sin of pride may be a hard sell. But I’ve only got one holiday and one deadly sin left, so I plan to plan to rationalize that square peg into this round hole until my theory completely fits.

So… what about the fact we think we know what we’re doing, even though we’re all  celebrating Christ’s resurrection with a bunch of bunny rabbits and colorful eggs?

Does that seem reasonable to you? That a giant rabbit, who hides baskets of chocolate from children, should be a fitting symbol of our messiah’s return from the dead?

Of course. Because we all know what we’re doing here. Why shouldn’t we call this holiday “Easter,” which comes from the Teutonic fertility goddess “Eostre,” which we celebrate in the Spring with a bunch of fertility symbols, like eggs and rabbits?

Nothing weird about that.

And while we’re on the subject of pride, how about the way we celebrate the holiday by hiding baskets and eggs from little kids. Kids have trouble finding them even when we put them in really obvious places, which makes us feel pretty smart.

Easter, the day we get to feel like geniuses by outwitting a pack of tiny children.

So, am I completely off the mark here? Because I’m basically saying that while we set up these holidays to celebrate the greatest of human virtues, we kind of end up reveling in the worst.

Not that it’s a bad thing. Maybe we need these “safe,” official spaces to get out all our selfishness. Maybe it makes us better people for the rest of the year.

Or maybe we’re inventing new holidays to do it better. I mean, what the heck is Black Friday about, if not our willingness to trample our countrymen to get our hands on a bigger TV?

UPDATE: After reading this post, my blogging buddy Amanda at Just in Queso wrote a hilarious post where she assigned the 7 deadly sins to characters on the show Friends. You should check it out: Sins and Friends.

(And read her other stuff too. It’s really good!)










Midnight at the Emergency Room on the Fourth of July

merica.jpgOur family met at my grandmother’s house for Independence Day celebrations, which was all kinds of fun. Plenty of good food was eaten (including ribs, jalapeño poppers, and potato salad) while the kids played in a wading pool and shot each other with water guns while bouncing on a giant trampoline.

There was also epic consumption of wine and beer, right before breaking out the fireworks. And I know what you’re thinking, since this story ends at the emergency room…

We had already shot off all the dangerous fireworks, the ones banned in Sacramento proper that you can still get away with in the backyard-goat-allowing burbs, when my cousin announced she had a special surprise.

For the past decade, she had been stashing illegal sparklers. The old-fashioned metal kind you can write your name in cursive with and still see it glow for a few seconds in the air. The kind they swapped out for the pathetic safe ones kids now have to use, since we no longer trust kids not to grab the wrong ends of exploding metal sticks.

Yeah, we lit them and had lots of fun remembering how sparklers used to actually be cool, back in the days when you could ride in the back of pickup trucks, shoot BB guns, and walk to the candy store all by yourself. Back when the biggest concern about living off Day-Glo orange popsicles and Kraft macaroni & cheese was staining your clothes (a lot of food used to be orange).

Unfortunately, I forget how hot they remain after going out and got a blister on my finger from holding it wrong. Suddenly, I remembered how we used to throw used sparklers into buckets filled with water and why.

Society used to trust people with higher temperatures, back in the day. Who doesn’t remember losing a paper sheet of skin off the roof of their mouth the day after eating hot pizza?

Probably Millennials, that’s who… And furthermore, you punks need to get the hell off my lawn (shaking cane).

Guess I got soft after manufacturers started making everything stupid-proof. At any rate, we ran out of good sparklers and started firing up the lame modern kind we had left. My cousin accidentally shot one into her hand and burned herself.

Oh the irony… using illegal fireworks without a hitch, then injuring yourself with a regulation sparkler.

I was at home in bed a couple of hours later when she texted me, asking if I could take her to the emergency room. I got dressed, drove to her house and found her holding one arm under the kitchen faucet while finishing up a glass of wine with the other. “It REALLY HURTS,” she kept saying.

I drove her to Kaiser, wondering if they’d put a little lampshade around her wrist, since that’s what they did when I grabbed the stove at age two. I reassured her this was probably a big night for injuries. She said she really hoped she wasn’t the only one.

We made it to the emergency room where my lit cousin walked in and told everyone how she’s burned herself after breaking out illegal fireworks. “You’re the first one tonight!” the guy behind the desk yelled. “At least, the first one who walked into the emergency room.”

I briefly wondered why anyone would schedule a fireworks injury appointment, before we figured out they meant people were coming by ambulance. I thought making an appointment would be funnier though (What’s the reason for this appointment? Well, I’ve got a bunch of illegal fireworks and am planning on drinking a lot. I know myself and figure I’d better be prepared for what-have-you…)

Along the way, my cousin kept regaling the staff with tales of her fireworks adventures and admitting to having more than a little wine. “SHHHH!” I kept telling her. “You want them not to give you any painkillers?”

“I’m just being HONEST!” she said, cause drunk people love to tell you how it is.

The nurse smirked and gave her some Norco. I kept fretting about her drinking talk getting her into hot water, but it apparently amused the hospital staff.

Turns out, she has a second degree burn on her hand. They put ointment on it, bandaged it, and gave her a prescription for painkillers. We went to the pharmacy in the middle of the night, where we overheard a guy explaining he had no identification after his dog “ate his license.”

I kid you not. He claimed his dog ate his driver’s license. I’d always assumed the dog-eating-your-homework deal was a silly cliche that actual kids won’t even use.

We finally got the prescription and I drove my cousin home, just as the painkillers were beginning to kick in. She said she was still in a lot of pain and I told her she was probably lucky she was a bit plastered. We remembered hearing about how people performed operations in the 19th century using nothing but whisky and how you don’t realize, as a child, just how inadequate that really is.

There’s that scene in Gone With the Wind where a guy gets his leg amputated after throwing back a drink… shudder.

My cousin will be okay, thankfully, but it was an interesting lesson. The illegal fireworks were fine, maybe because we knew they were potentially dangerous. Do we let our guards down too much when we expect everything to be regulated? Do we live on the precipice of a world where people will start injuring themselves with Nerf bats?

I hope everyone else had a wonderful Fourth of July! 🙂



Memorial Day Weekend Hilarity

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day and fun three-day weekend.

We sure did. My crazy, high-energy toddlers can be challenging (aren’t they all?), but they really crack me up. The entertainment value alone makes it all worth it, so I thought I’d share some of the highlight reel:

Dad Makes a Mockery of Purple Princess Clothes

IMG_3602John: Can I wear your dress today?


John: No, I look awesome.

Brontë: NO, you’re too big. That’s for GIRLS. MOMMA, DADDY’S TRYING TO WEAR MY PRINCESS DRESS!

Notice my daughter’s look of unbridled toddler outrage. Not only is her dad taking her dresses without asking, he’s  getting boy cooties all over them.


Battles for Violet the Lizard

We went to a cousin’s birthday party at John’s Incredible pizza. I told my husband he should demand free entrance because the sign says it’s his place, but no one else thought the idea was funny. And rightly so.

Violet the lizard
Turns out my husband has mad skee ball powers that gave us a cheap toy return on our entrance fees. As if by magic, he dropped a ball straight into the 300 ticket slot. He claims it was pure luck, but I think he’s just being modest.

After playing a variety of arcade games and collecting tickets, we went with the kids to the ticket redemption center so they could pick out some stuff. They selected two miniature Army guys with tiny parachutes, two kazoos, and one plastic lizard.

Brontë named the lizard Violet (after my cat) and she quickly became the most sought-after toy in the house. Brontë and Bridget fight over turns with Violet, pretending to brush her hair, read her books, carrying her around in a plastic cat carrier, and wearing her on their shoulder while they eat dinner.

Lizard castle
They even built her a lizard castle, which also functioned as a sister fort.

Finally one evening, I caught Brontë quietly staring at Violet. Brontë lightly poked her a couple of times then looked at me, concerned.

“Mom? I think there may be something wrong with this lizard.” Brontë told me as she kept poking her. “She isn’t moving. We may need to take her to a doctor.”



Profanity At The Zoo

IMG_3611We also had a terrific time at the zoo, checking out all the different animals and running around like mad.

I even learned something new. We were standing next to some zebras when one of them got worked up about something and started yelling. It sounded A LOT like a donkey.

I’ve never heard a zebra make noise before, but I didn’t expect to hear donkey calls. I thought zebras would sound more like warbling deer. Now I can’t help but see zebras as nothing but donkeys wearing elaborate striped outfits.

The kids were having so much fun, in fact, that we didn’t notice the time flying by. And right as an employee finally walked up to us to politely tell us the zoo was closing, Brontë stopped suddenly, looked at me with enormous eyes, and said, “MOM, I REALLY, REALLY NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.”

We immediately rushed over to the nearby restrooms because when a four-year-old tells you they need the bathroom, it’s urgent. John and I were negotiating who would look after which kid when the zoo employee told us to all just go in together since everyone else had left anyway.

So, we all walked into the bathroom together as Brontë beelined to a stall. She scrambled onto the toilet seat while dropping her drawers… and two baseball-sized turds rolled across the floor.

Brontë looked down, threw both her arms in the air, and shouted:

“Well SH*T, looks like I just crapped my pants!”

I pressed my lips together hard while my brain screamed dontlaughdontlaughdontlaugh, but I just COULDN’T HELP IT.

John, sensing I was about to break, heroically rushed over to help as I quietly left the bathroom to go into hysterics. You don’t want to encourage your children to have potty mouths by laughing when they swear, but it was just…

IMG_3610SO FUNNY. I don’t know how my husband held it together. Her enunciation was perfect. Her arms gestures added just the right emphasis and if crapping your pants isn’t the perfect situation for using the S-word, then I don’t know what is.

I walked back in after collecting myself and helped get everyone out of the zoo. John and I told Brontë she shouldn’t be using the S word but tried not to make a big deal out of it, because flipping out seemed like handing our kids detailed instructions on how to really get a rise out of adults.

My cousin related this little gem to our grandmother, who called the toddler use of the S word an “abomination.” That seemed like a strong word to me.

Fortunately, no one saw or heard any of this: neither the toddler S bomb, nor the rolling turds. I’m not entirely sure whether we just spared humanity from this scene or if everyone else was robbed of the joke.

But I hope everyone else had a fun weekend too. Happy Memorial Day!





Brontë Finds Out Her Mom is a Pumpkin-Slayer

My four-year-old daughter is currently in love with all things dark and creepy. She is all about Scooby Doo mysteries, haunted houses, and Tim Burton cartoons.

She calls them “smooky,” which I assume is a toddler variant on the word “spooky.” Maybe because spooky things seem to involve a lot of dry ice and fake smoke. I don’t know.

What I find particularly interesting about Brontë’s dark obsessions of late is how they represent such a complete turnaround from last year. She used to be terrified of sleeping with the lights out and no amount of glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars or night lights seemed to help.

Baby Sister slays a dragon

And the Halloween before last was a complete bust. I’d hoped her love of dressing up and the first candy exchange would move her past all the dancing skeletons and deranged jack-o-lanterns, but it was a disaster…


She yelled in abject terror when our first neighbor opened the door and ran screaming with both arms in the air across the second neighbor’s yard, dumping her candy bowl during her mad escape attempt. Halloween was over.

But a conversation this past October unexpectedly turned everything around. It went something like this…

Me: We are going to the pumpkin farm to get ready for Halloween. Halloween is fun! You get to dress up and go trick-or-treating. People give you candy.

Brontë: I no like Halloween. It’s scary.

Me: There are scary decorations, but it’s all pretend. You get to dress up in a costume!

Brontë: I no like pumpkins. Pumpkins are really scary.

Me: Don’t be scared! We are going to go to a pumpkin farm and you can pick out whatever pumpkin you like. Then we are going to go home and carve it and make pumpkin pie, then carve a face and make a jack-o-lantern. It’s okay…

At this, Brontë froze. Her eyes grew enormous while she pondered what I had just said.

She swiveled around and looked me straight in the eye as a wide smile grew on her face.

“I NOT SCARED OF PUMPKINS!” she shouted. “My momma is gonna CUT A PUMPKIN with a KNIFE and EAT IT!”

I blinked at her and nodded.

She began walking again, muttering, “My momma CUTS pumpkins and EATS them… we gonna get a pumpkin and CUT IT!”

I followed, finding her revelation both comforting and disturbing. There was an unmistakable twinkle in her eye every time she talked about CUTTING the pumpkins… with a KNIFE.

Hmm. I suppose she had spent the first few years of her life terrified of monsters and the dark. Maybe it wasn’t so weird to find the idea of powerful knife-wielding mom somewhat comforting.

Brontë lived in a primitive realm crowded with dragons and nightmares, one that logically required a mother as protective as she was nurturing.

Because what good is a delicate mother who lets you be kidnapped by errant, maniacal gourds? Okay Brontë, we’ll slay that pumpkin together…

We went to the pumpkin farm, where Brontë took great pains to select the perfect pumpkin. She circled the field over and over until finally pointing: “This one!”

We took it home and carved it up. She demanded a “happy pumpkin,” so I made a smiley face with triangle eyes before putting a candle inside and setting the grisly trophy on the doorstep as a warning to all would-be menacing pumpkins.

Brontë followed me everywhere, watching the ritualized pumpkin dispatch. When the pumpkin pie had cooled, I served her a triangle which she bit into with deep satisfaction.

Then she was ready for Halloween.

She donned her pirate costume, grabbed her candy bucket in one hand and my hand in the other, and stood up tall. We walked out the front door with dad and baby sister trailing behind.

As she approached the first house, she squeezed my hand harder. “Say ‘trick-or-treat’ and they will give you candy,” I told her as she nodded.

Brontë squeezes my hand while preparing for Pumpkin Combat

We rang the bell. Brontë squeezed my fingers.


The door opened and we stood for a moment before Brontë whispered “Trick or treat.”

Our neighbor smiled before dropping some miniature Snickers into Brontë’s and her sister’s bowl. We said thank you and walked away.

Brontë’s grip loosened as she smiled triumphantly. Each house was easier. The kids’ candy bowls were overflowing by the time we returned home.

They spent the night watching spooky cartoons while eating themselves sick on chocolate. Halloween wasn’t so bad, after all. You put up pretend spooky monsters and then strangers give you free candy while talking about how adorable you are.

“Next Halloween,” Brontë told me, “I want a mean pumpkin. And a scared pumpkin.”

And the funny thing is, Brontë isn’t afraid of the dark anymore.

Or scary monsters, or haunted houses, or spooky cartoons. She no longer saw any reason to feel threatened after conquering the Grand Tournament of Official Scariness known as “Halloween.”

Brontë didn’t even mind mean pumpkins hanging around the house. Because what pumpkin in its right mind would mess with the daughter of a pumpkin-slayer?

Brontë looks over her spoils as she reevaluates smookiness


Hoping My Daughter Doesn’t Break Baby Jesus

My daughter ponders the gods

After decorating our Christmas tree and putting up the stockings and lights, my daughter Brontë and I opened a special box together.

I watched my three-year-old daughter’s eyes widen as we pulled out, piece by piece, my treasured crèche set.

When I was about eight years old, my mother bought a bunch of Santon figurines while we were vacationing in Provence.

Santons (or “little saints”) are charming little painted terra-cotta figurines made for a traditional Provençal crèche, or nativity scene. They were first created during the French Revolution, when churches were forcibly shut down, eventually becoming a local craft.

I used to love them as a child, having appointed myself the Lead Director of Manger Positioning every year when our family decorated for Christmas. I would thoughtfully place each character, stepping back many times to assess the overall effect then adjusting the scene until it met my strict creative standards.

The manger I used for the sacred representation is far too big for the figurines. Originally part of a different set, the wooden structure was, to my childhood brain, its only salvageable element.

What was wrong with it? Well, these would-be usurpers failed both parts of my little girl nativity scene assessment test: 1. Mary was blonde, and 2. All three kings were white.

I chuckle when looking back on it now, but when I was a little girl, it was extremely important to me that Mary had dark hair. Blonde Mary seemed patently ridiculous, a blatantly-racist rewriting of historical fact.

My theories make some sense, though, given that this all was supposed to take place in the Middle East.

In Sweden or Norway, blondes might be legitimate. But in the Middle East? Natural blondness occurs so rarely there that making Mary blonde seemed to imply that holiness and goodness somehow results in lighter hair, despite its genetic unlikeliness.

And the black king… well again, this is the Middle East. If there are three kings (or “wise men”) randomly arriving from foreign parts to see the baby, I felt at least one of them should be black.

The French Santon set, with its black king and brunette Mary, was therefore the “true” set of my childhood imagination, the only one deserving of any manger. So years ago, I added the wooden structure to the French cast while quietly tucking the rest of the usurping Aryans away. I don’t know what happened to them.

Looking back on it now, however, the bizarrely-anachronistic Santons could hardly be considered “authentic.”

First, it includes a Catholic priest holding an umbrella.

Now, I’m not sure how he got past the editors, but clearly, there was no such thing as Christianity at the moment of Jesus’s birth, let alone Catholicism. It would actually be more accurate to include Pharaohs and Pharisees, given that everyone present would have been Jewish, Roman, or Egyptian at the time.

I won’t bother getting into the umbrella issue. Or the duck (there’s also a duck).

Beyond the inclusion of Catholic priests, there is also an odd mixture of costuming. While Mary and Joseph look properly biblical, many of the villagers coming to see the baby are clearly dressed in 18th century French attire. The Drummer Boy has a coat with several rows of Enlightenment buttons.

Hmm… I hate to ruin everything by pondering its lack of historical accuracy, so I’ll chalk it up to the universality of the tale: the scene becomes a collection of symbols and archetypes that have captured our imagination for centuries. It can work in different periods, like when people put on a Shakespeare play where everyone is dressed for the 19th century or in modern clothes, because the story is timeless.

None of this bothers my three-year-old, of course, who has other concerns. Watching your children reinterpret relics of your own childhood can be fascinating.

It all went down like this.

Brontë (holding up a crèche figurine with arms held in the air): AAAAH!

Me (trying to explain the presence of an 18th century French peasant woman on December 25, zero): She’s surprised. She’s a shocked villager, amazed to see the baby.

Brontë (feigning fear): No, it’s a monster! RAWR! [She picks up the black king] Who is this?

Me: That’s one of three kings. Here to see the baby.

Brontë (suspiciously): Where’s the queen?

Me: There is no queen. Except Mary… in the spiritual sense.

Brontë (grabbing a wise man with a gray beard): THIS is the queen now.

Me: Alright, why not?

Brontë (grabbing Mary): And this is the queen’s best friend. They like chickens.

The “monster,” the king, the queen, the queen’s BFF, and some other guy

The world through three-year-old eyes is a trip.

Part of me was reluctant to let her play with the figurines, in case she breaks them. Breaking the baby Jesus just can’t be a good omen for anyone. Like sneezing in holy water or stomping across graves.

On the other hand, Brontë is being very gentle with them and seems utterly fascinated by moving them around. Every day, she has been creating new vignettes, and I hate to discourage the creativity.

IMG_2918In this one, she carefully positioned all the animals around the baby. She likes animals a lot, so I assume they are helping guard the baby while keeping it warm.

I also imagine the idea resonates with her, since she spent much of her infancy like this:

Much of Brontë’s babyhood was spent packed in kittens








The next day, Brontë lined up all of the adults next to the infant messiah. I’m guessing that since she kept hearing about everyone coming to see the baby, she figured she would play it out with a receiving line.

With the nativity scene rapidly becoming Brontë’s Box of Archetypes, I’m curious to see what she will come up with next…

A fine composition, I think, for a three-year-old

Our Daughters Love Putting Up The Christmas Tree

IMG_2912My daughter Brontë is three years old now, just old enough to start getting super excited about Christmas. I love to build anticipation for the holidays too.

It’s fun. Also, I figure it helps give her a better sense of time, the passing of the seasons and the yearly rituals that accompany them.

She is already enjoying advent calendars. Every day she finds the right number on her calendar and eats the chocolate behind it. I’m hoping this helps her learn numbers, understand how calendars work (how long it is until Christmas), and practice moderation.

The advent calendar lesson took two attempts, unfortunately, since Brontë woke up early one morning and tore out all the chocolate at once. Since she also demolished baby sister Bridget’s calendar, we decided to give her one more chance this year, making sure to store the calendars higher from now on.

So last weekend, we finally got around to getting a Christmas tree to decorate. Brontë was ecstatic, having waited for this moment for weeks. She slapped some reindeer horns, because she loves getting into the spirit of things, and ran out the front door squealing.

Driving to a local tree farm, the kids tore out of the car and raced around the trees. Brontë strolled around for a few minutes before pointing at a tree:

“This one,” she shouted. “This is our tree!”

“Do you want to look around for a little while and see if you like another tree better?” I asked her.

“No,” she replied, throwing her arms out to her sides, “This one is perfect.”

She clearly doesn’t have trouble making decisions.

We took our perfect tree home and decorated it with lights. Brontë passed out ornament after ornament, taking time to marvel at each before selecting the “perfect” branch to showcase them.

Brontë picked out a My Little Pony theme whereas Bridget wanted a Minion stocking. After we put them up, Bridget kept pointing at her stocking, shouting “Minion!” in her adorable, one-and-a-half-year-old voice.

This kids keep staring at the lit-up tree in the evening, mesmerized by their own private holiday wonderlands.

“That’s our tree,” Brontë says, beaming, “That’s our Christmas tree.”