End of the day goodness

End of the day goodness
Backyard travel

Monday, December 19, 2016

Ho! Ho! Ho!

2016 was the year Helen decided she needed a definitive answer about Santa Claus. Unbeknown to us, she had created a two column sheet of paper with evidence both supporting and contradicting his existence. Evidence for his existence: Dad would never spend money on American Girl dolls, that had to be Santa. Mom & Dad are in bed by 9pm, Santa comes way past their bed times. If Santa is not real, it is the largest hoax ever, because most of the world is in on it. Evidence that he is not real: Logistics, delivering gifts to everyone via a sleigh in one night is highly improbable, maybe 150 years ago, but today it is not feasible (maybe he has help, additional sleighs), the cousins were talking about what happened when one of them discovered "he" wasn't real. I am pretty sure who "he" was.

It went on and on. I could tell she wanted to believe but she also wanted to know the truth. So, what did I do? I floundered. Why? I remembered being 9 and thinking I wanted to know and of course, like every other kid, once I knew, I wished I could unknow it.

On the internet, there are Pintrest boards with sweet letters galore on how to break the bad news. These are beautifully written and full of all the magic that exists behind Santa. They perfectly capture the love that keeps bringing him to life generation after generation. It was the right time to print one of these letters out and sit down to have a monumental parenting moment with my child. Did I do it? Of course not. I avoided the whole situation hoping to eek out one more year of borderline belief. But as luck would have it, Helen went through three or four weeks where I swear to God, she lost 4 or 5 teeth. Getting a tooth out from under the head of a hard sleeping 7 year old who has nothing to dream about but the tooth fairy bringing gold coins is relatively easy. At almost 10 it is quite another story. Helen's brain was starting to stay up and "think" even when she knew she should go to sleep. So by this point, Helen was an expert at not falling asleep. She decided to take advantage of this new power to see if the tooth fairy was real. This could add to her column of evidence for or against Santa.

At this point we are in a game of cat and mouse. I am the mouse, trying to sneak the cheese out from under her pillow. She is the cat, trying to catch me. I started at 11pm, I leaned over, coins hidden, "Hi Mom", she says casually. "Hi Helen, I wanted to give you one more kiss before bed." That night, I made the exchange successfully at my 4:30am pee time. With the next tooth I could tell she was fake breathing so I gave her a kiss and crept out without making the exchange. This was becoming difficult and she was staying awake late and waking up early to outsmart this old, loud, very sleepy fairy. I was heavily quizzed the next morning because Helen actually dreamed I had come in and she felt my hand under her pillow. I had made the exchange when she was so asleep that she was upside down but this was the beginning of the end. While John and I were out of town, she lost another tooth and my Mom was caught in the act. She did not say anything but pretended to sleep. However, the next day, when she lost another tooth (seriously, it was the Great Tooth Purge of 2016), she told my Mom that she did not have to keep up the facade. She knew there was no Tooth Fairy but she was holding out hope that Santa was real. At this point Mom went with the tried and true, "As long as you believe in Santa, he will come." It was reported to me that upon hearing this information, Helen sighed a sigh that for a brief moment sucked all the air out of North America and then released into a damp breeze that swayed yucca all the way into Arizona. It was the unmistakable moment when a bit of someone's childhood vanishes. I was completely oblivious to this as I was sitting in Spain drinking a fantastic local wine, eating tapas and looking out at the Mediterranean.

In retrospect, I think it is probably good I was not there for the event. I would have delivered some melodramatic speech. Helen didn't need a speech. She completely understood the moment that she knew the truth. In fact while I had felt selfishly sad as a kid, she felt guilt because of the expectations she had put upon Santa's magic. She suddenly realized it was not the infinite pocketbook of elves with mad skills. It was Mom and Dad who have been known to serve a weird assortment of freezer burned items to get through the last day before pay day. And, as I sat down ready to commiserate with her, Helen had already moved on. "You know Mom, I have been thinking, now that I know, I can help. I can easily get information from Lauren, I can help hide eggs (once you know fairies and elves don't exist, a giant magical bunny doesn't even need to be discussed), I can do her stocking..." At this point John pipes in, "Helen, you are a kid, we are the parents, you do not get to take over magic duties until you have your own kids." "Wait, wait," I say. I am thinking Helen has some good points. I do not at all enjoy tooth fairy duty or that damn elf. "I think Helen could be very helpful with some of these duties."

And in fact, she has been indispensable this December in the role of the elf. Actually the elves, we have a pack of three which actually makes coming up with scenarios easier. Helen is a master, she has ideas galore, she leaves far better notes than I ever left. The elves now have back stories. There is the leader, the adventurer and the mischievous one who is always getting into trouble. She has different handwriting for each of them. She brings the joy of childhood to this activity and never sees it as a chore. Dough!!! I was worried that this Christmas would feel different since Helen no longer believes in Santa. It does feel different but in an unexpected way. Receiving is suddenly less important than giving. She completely embodies that this year. I cannot imagine any Christmas gift more magical than that.

Monday, September 26, 2016


There are days in life where you gather with people you may or may not know because of someone you mutually love. It happens at weddings, it happens sometimes at graduations, it happens when saying goodbye. Today was a goodbye, and while sad, I loved the embrace of Jackie's people. The nice lady behind me who told me that I have lovely sweet daughters. The friend who pointed out Jackie died on international peace day. Jackie's kind Children, Husband and Grandchildren, so graciously comforting us while in the midst of their own grief. Everyone feeling the need to let everyone else know how loved they were through all the stories Jackie loved to tell about her brood.

The girls and I were going to have a tea party at the arboretum afterward. Jackie and I had been trying to work our schedules out forever for a trip there with the kids. Since the weather did not cooperate, we journeyed to Half Price books. The good one on Northwest Highway with the Black Forest bakery. We each selected a decadent sweet and looked amazingly fancy and a bit out of place for a drizzly Monday; packed in amongst the Mahjong groups and college students. Jackie would have greatly approved, seeing as the first time she met John, she stole some of his lemon meringue pie. She loved to act out the scene that followed, the one where John protectively wrapped his arm around his pie and threatened to defend against further attacks with his fork.

Helen wished for Hermione's time turner so we could go back, to before Jackie got sick. Lauren wished Grandaddy's best friend the watchmaker was still alive so he could create one for us. I just sat thinking about Jackie's cousin who talked about the dash. The space between birth and death and making sure you have a good dash, whether it is short or long. Jackie had an amazing dash.

We bought books because nothing goes better with cake than splurging on a My Little Pony Hardback for less than $8. Or Hoot for under $4. Or Beloved for under $6, a book recommended by the person we were eating sweets in honor of about a decade ago. I could not read it then because I was pregnant at the time and about three chapters in, I chickened out. After all, my greatest fear was Seth's reality, the death of the beloved child within me. A decade brings a lot of change, filled often with joy, sometimes with loss and hopefully a bit of wisedom. Perhaps now I can face Beloved and see it with some of your wisdom my dear friend.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Great Shopkin War

I actually posted the first part of this on FB but my kids took the play in such a funny direction that I felt the need to add on. Since this is my online journal, it will be easier for me to get back to this spot someday then to pick up the hashtag skill.

It is not my favorite thing to play Shopkins with the kids but they are so happy when I do. Since the monsoons have hit, I have agreed, hoping to keep peace as a tradeoff. My normal character is Crescent D'or. He is married to Madame Cheesecake, who is both beautiful and brave. This is Lauren's character. She shoots thunder with her bow and arrow and destroys it dead in its tracks. I am being summoned, they noticed I snuck off. Bon jour!

Chapter two in the Shopkin story: Once summoned back to my Kingdom by the royal subjects, things had gone bad. A family of Littlest Pet shop characters was trying to move into the strawberry house. My fair queen cheesecake doesn't always like to share and tried her hardest to oust the LPS group out of town. I told her I was king and I believe in diversity. She did not like it, but when I threatened to make her read the rest of the afternoon, she saw reason.

Then there was the terrible toilet problem. With so many families moving to our town, no one had a butt butler but those of us residing in our castle. :) Peasants were showing up left and right just to take a pee. I asked one LPS cat why she didn't just go outside like other cats. She informed me in no uncertain terms that she is just as civilized as I am. Fare enough, but our poor shopkin toilet was becoming overworked. I found myself having to issue a toilet decree. Before I could act on it, my queen and daughter were kidnaped by the evil talking purple jellybean. There was a huge jellybean hunt and 100's of square feet were covered in the search. In the end, the scoundrel was captured in a remote closet on the outskirts of our world. When he was caught, he was quickly executed by our henchman Lauren who chose death by stomach acid for the treacherous candy.

With the wife and kid safe, I went back to the toilet issue. Where the devil was I too find 10 or so toilets on the fly. Lucky for me, there was a landfill on counter island where another culture had left the remains of hundreds of plastic eggs. I had my peasants karate chop the eggs in two and use the smaller halves as decorative toilets in their homes. Ou'la, problem solved. I went to the top of Mt. Couch to meditate on my successful day. While I was there I met a fatherless family. I asked sadly what happened to the father. Apparently the father had been killed in the Great Shopkin War. Helen, the main talker for this family was very helpful in giving me the details. Apparently the War was against the Squinkies. An inferior race we fought to extinction on shopping isles everywhere. I felt a chill. Could Winter be coming? Yes, at the moment we were victorious, but what murderous toy could come along and replace us. Perhaps I needed to spend more time with the LPS guys, they have been around for decades. Good thing I did not let the Queen run them out of town, they could be our ticket to survival!

And with that, I retired the kingdom to the kids because lets face it, they can deal with murderous toys and toilet issues. I am the only one who can deliver chicken nuggets and mac and cheese to hungary empire builders.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Joy of Laughter

I generally write happy stuff. Mostly because I have a very happy life, surrounded by happy, funny people. Of them all, my Dad's best friend has to be the happiest of the happy. The funniest of the funny. In the 30 some odd years of knowing the man, I have never seen him sour. When he laughs, he crinkles his nose and his entire face gets in on the act. He has the most scraggly beard I have ever seen. Something only an intellectual tinker could get away with. And Satish is certainly that. He tinkers with everything from watches to his own hair. He has much better luck with the watches than the hair.
He is the only person I have ever met who is cheaper than my father. I once saw him with the worst hair cut I have ever seen on anyone ever. He laughed good-heartedly when telling how his wife had forbid him from ever taking scissors to his own hair again. The result appeared to be the mange. Truly, it was terrible.
I use to humor my Dad and get up at the ass crack of dawn and drive from Mansfield to Dallas to the Saturday sale. It was this weird computer sale under a bridge where people sold all kinds of computer parts and hand crafted machines. Satish would stand there bargaining things down to ridiculously low prices. I think they discovered some place with a $2.00 breakfast after they had obtained all the pieces parts two middle age engineers could get for $20.
Several years ago Satish was in charge of pet sitting his neighbor's bird, Goburt. It was one of those weird stories that only happens to Satish, but somehow he ended up with this illegal exotic bird. The neighbor disappeared, the house flooded, there was a difficult process in trying to get the bird out of a flooding house with no electricity, and vanished owners. As it turns out, Goburt is the coolest bird. The kids have grown up going to visit him. They know never to trust him with a finger but they will bounce up and down at each other, making clicking noises back and forth. He does amazing imitations. Particularly of Satish's voice. He has his laugh down pat. Probably because Satish laughs all the time. It is a sound Goburt knows by heart. It is a sound we all know by heart.  
It is that sound and that crinkled nose and scraggly beard I will miss most. Satish died yesterday. He died in the most brilliant way possible. His whole family with him saying their good byes, surrounded by love. Today the news has been rippling out to all of us who loved him. It is not really a surprise. He had been ill for a long time but I think selfishly we kept wanting him to hold on a little longer, a little longer. I am glad Satish ended up with Goburt. Satish has a brand new baby Granddaughter and young Grandson. With any luck they will grow up listening to Goburt, perfectly imitating their Grandfather's amazing laugh.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Great Quest to Find William B. Travis

This morning was one of those mornings when things should have gone smoothly but they did not.  I actually woke up at 5:30am.  Good start.  BUT did not actually get up until a little after 6am.  I hopped in the tub meaning to only stay in about 5 minutes, but I love sitting in the dark, in a warm tub so I decided to go for 7minutes instead.  Even with the cat poking my shoulder every ten seconds, requesting I dribble water on his head, it was mostly relaxing.  That is right up until Lauren Francis came streaking into the room and invaded my bath.  This wasn't necessarily bad, but I had to adjust to Plan B.  I was going to be in the tub now for at least 15 to 17 minutes.  We got out and got side-tracked on our get ready for school mission.  John was sitting on the bed doing email so we decided to take a snuggle detour.  Plan C.  We finally get upstairs at 10 til 7.

Now in my house, if children are not dressed and to the table by 7am, we are most certainly not going to make our "leave the house by 7:30am" goal.  I assume that anyone who has to get anywhere in the morning has the strange minute barometer set in their head.  "Good God!  I woke you up at 6:30am.  It took you 12.5 minutes from the time I woke you up for you to lift your head off the pillow!  Hustle, hustle!"  My children hear the word hustle no less than 30 times a morning.  They also constantly hear their statistics on the minute barometer so they know exactly where they can improve their times.  "14 minutes wasted this morning locating the one shoe under the bed and the other in the bathroom.  3 minutes wasted trying to sneak a My Little Pony in your backpack.  Okay, when you have to poo, you have to poo.  But if you could try to time it before we are backing out of the garage.  We were 4 minutes ahead of schedule."

With that said, no one made it to the table until 7:10am this morning.  Lauren who had started off strong by waking up early, became side tracked trying to get a table cleared off in her room so she could move the Princess Celestia castle on top of it.  This was of course the top priority of her entire day.  Little things like clothing, eating and getting to school on time came much lower on her list.  Helen, was earlier to the table, but had her nose in a new book so she kept forgetting to eat and ended up leaving the table 10 minutes later than Lauren.

At this point we are 7:38am, I pull out Helen's binder to do my parently duty of signing and acknowledging the school day before existed when out fall two small drawings of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin.  "Helen, these drawings are great," I remark.  Helen looks a little panicked,"Where is William B. Travis?  Oh dear.  Oh dear.  This is bad.  I have this thing, I have to turn these in and I don't see William B Travis.  Where did he go?"  We start pulling out an unbelievable amount of loose paper from Helen's messenger bag.  It is like the little cars that 50 clowns pour out of.  There is a fox Helen sketched, a page that says redo that Helen has not redone.   It is a memory lane of assignments that Helen cannot help reflecting on even as she is panicking about Travis.  I realize we are not likely to find the tiny hero.  "Helen, here is a notecard.  Get to drawing and I will go look and see if he fell out in the car."  Lauren chimes in, "What did Helen loose?"  "She lost William B. Travis.  We cannot find him anywhere."  Lauren helps in the hunt as well.

I am sad to say we never found Mr. Travis.  I am quite certain he made his escape yesterday when Helen pulled a piece of paper out to sketch on during Girl's club.  She drew another but he was done in a rush and apparently inferior to the original.  We left the house with 7 minutes until tardy bell.  We had a tardy last week.  A tardy two weeks in a row is very frowned upon in Allen.  This is bad for us because we tend to be late in clusters.  We pulled into a drop off spot with kids coming from everywhere at a full run.  The tardy bell had rung but a watch dog dad was holding the door.  "Hustle girls!  Hustle!"  I have my coffee in hand, the assistant principal has his coffee in his, we make eye contact.  He smiles and looks the other way while about 15 kids slip into school avoiding the tardy slips that come once the door closes and locks.  I can't help it, I know somewhere on the floor of the school is a tiny William B. Travis, happy to be in a Texas still wild enough to stretch the rules just a bit.