End of the day goodness

End of the day goodness
Backyard travel

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Commando moments

Every end of school year is the same yet different.  I have learned to buy enough panties to offset my May laundry vacation.  The result, no more kindergartener attending the last day of school "commando" because of my laundry fail.  Now we are seasoned elementary veterans with 5 years experience under our belts.  Kids who sleep til 7:30am, already on summer time, pick something relatively clean to wear, down some instant breakfast and put their shoes on in the car.  All nonessentials, like glasses are left in their hiding places.  At T minus 3 days and counting, today's classroom agenda consists of board games supplied by students, another non essential.  Let more motivated parents go on a scavenger hunt for dice and game pieces.  The only way we ever provide for game day is by going to Target the night before, buying something and sending it to school unopened.  Even then, there is a fair chance an important piece will end up missing.

With all these strategies in place, we still manage to hit some bumps.  Field day was Friday.  Even the name implies ants and bumps and potential holes to fall in.  For us, the holes are in the planning.  School shirts should be worn, real tennis shoes, hopefully with socks, sunscreen, bug spray, sack lunches that could be thrown out and swimsuits since water is now part of the festivities.  This is an excellent improvement since Texas and field day go together like ice cream and ovens.  I remember sweltering as a kid.  

Not only did the girls need to be prepared, but so did I.  In one of my efforts to not appear like the oldest, stodgiest mom on the block (I am the oldest, stodgiest mom on the block) I volunteered to work both sessions at a "water activity".  The coach at our school is wonderful and set up stations with squirt guns to be squirted at cans, at ducks, at ping pong balls going through little hockey goals.  The games were clever and well thought out but why on earth would any kid with a sponge or squirter aim at anything nonhuman?   By the end I looked and smelled like wet dog.  This is normally not a problem BUT, I had a Friday night concert to attend.  This is completely out of character for me.  It takes a Herculean effort to get me off the couch on a normal a Friday night.  Field day evening, I am comatose by 7pm.

What on earth was I thinking?  Well I wasn't.  I do this all the time.  Months earlier when tickets went on sale to go see U2, who was going to be in town a week before my birthday, AND the Joshua tree Tour, the same concert I had seen 30 years ago, well good God man, that just screams meant to be doesn't it?  Sooo, two weeks ago when I signed up for field day volunteer, it did not even register they were the same day. 

Again, no big deal, just some pre-planning which I can do if properly motivated.  Field day was over at 2pm, I would get the kids and bring them home with me, pack my bag (that fell off the radar in the midst of swimsuit, yearbook, sock hunting the night before), and be to Melissa's by 3pm.  We were staying at a La Quinta by the stadium, I would shower there and worry about looking concert cute at some point.  At the very least, I needed to remember a razor, cute might not be practical but attending U2 as a Sasquatch could certainly be avoided. 

By 2pm I had informed the teachers that the kids would be coming home with me, and I would be in the front office waiting.  All they had to do was retrieve backpacks from classrooms and we were set.  I told the girls not to change since they would not be riding the bus.  

I stood in the office with all the other volunteers who had, just told their children the same thing.  And I watched as all the other children promptly entered the office and left with their parents while I waited and waited and waited until 2:30pm when I was practically fuming.  I was about to tell the school my children would be riding the bus when out bops Helen.  I wanted yell at her but, she had the glow of field day and thinking she was leaving school an hour early (now only 15 minutes).  Instead I opted to fall dramatically on the floor feigning death by shock that she had finally shown up.  In retrospect this is probably more horrifying to an eleven year old than screaming.  I look up from the floor "would you go find your sister before I really do die of old age, right here in the middle of your school entry."  Luckily the second lolligagger was just arriving.  I realize they changed clothes.  "Why did you guys change?  I told you not to."  "Oh Mom, no way to be in those gross wet clothes another minute," they fail to even notice I am laying on the floor in gross wet clothes, "and the girls bathrooms were all jammed up with people changing.  It took forever."  "And then," says Helen as we are walking out the door, "there was the other issue, I lost my panties.  So I am commando."  I look at her horrified.  "So your panties are now floating around somewhere in the school?"  Helen looks at me, eyes wide, "No Mom, thank GOODNESS, I found them on a desk right as I was leaving.  Can you imagine if someone in my class happened upon that?  I mean how offensive."  

We walked out to the car, another commando moment survived.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring Author Night #4

I am trying to remember exactly when it happened, four or five years ago, Michelle alerted me to an amazing author series hosted by the DMA.  We try to pick one each year to go see.  We haven't bombed yet.  Some have been filled with humor, other have been more serious, but all have some life nugget involved.  Last night was no exception and perhaps had even a few more than usual.

1.) In an age when we are acutely aware of the effects of bullying, it is important to help our children develop a thick skin towards people who put them down and belittle them out of meanness, and yet remain open and accessible to those who love and care about them.

2.) Children have a lot of concerns about what kind of world they will inherit from us.  By 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.  We are in a position to make policies to do something about it, they are not.  No matter what we believe, delivering the most healthy planet possible into their hands matters.

3.). One of my favorite stories of a personal nature was about her grandmother Ginger.  Ginger spent a lot of her childhood being abandoned.  At age 8, Ginger was given two train tickets, one for herself and one for her two year old sibling, to make the two day journey from the East coast to Los Angles alone to live with her Grandparents.  When Ginger was about to turn 14, she was told she could go to work and be responsible for herself.  Ginger's perspective, she was blessed to have been born in the US.  Even growing up poor with adversity, it was her right as a citizen to receive a free public education.  Being poor is a setback.  Being poor and uneducated is almost insurmountable.  Adversity leaves time for little else.  Chelsea brought up a beautiful point instilled in her by her Grandmother.  Her privilege allowed her time to focus on helping others.  She could do anything she wanted to with her life, but it needed to involve thinking beyond herself and giving service.

4). Being the daughter of successful parents did not put pressure on her to do something with her life in near the way being a Mom has.

5). People ask her all the time if she plans to run for office because of her last name.  She thinks this should not be a question reserved for the children of famous politicians.  It should be a question we ask each other.  A question we ask ourselves.  We forget there is so much within our control at the local level.  Perhaps this is because Civics is not being taught to children in elementary and junior high but it should be.  Recycling stars at the local level.  Changes in the criminal justice system start at the local level.  My kids have totally got the three branches of our government down.  But last night I realized they don't know about district attorneys, the school board, city council, it goes on and on.

All and all, It's Your World may be geared toward youth, but the message to get informed, get inspired, and get going, is one we can all use.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Dickens Cough

I usually try not to post a lot of detail when the gurkins are sick. Kids, as my husband says, are Petri dishes of ick. It really isn't news, it is just part of everyday life for anyone with children. However, their current virus warrants a mention. I have named it The Dickens virus. My daughters are truly like the urchins in those sad depressing Dickens tales. The ones sitting dirty and forlorn in an orphanage with a constant, nagging cough. That was our house yesterday. Seriously, I could see the room turning sepia, with cobwebs and soot starting to manifest. Soon, John was going to come out wearing a worn out top hat and tell me Mister Scrooge was about to cut his pay and force him into an offshore data center for the next six months in the most crowded, un-airconditioned bit of Bangladesh.

I had to get the girls to the doctor quickly to avoid this fate. This meant they had to be unwrapped from the blankets and crumbs they were festering in. Clothes had to be found. Even sick, nude under a blanket is frowned upon in the doctor's office. My family has a habit of taking a bath and opting to air dry for hours afterward. I am just as bad as the children. At 2pm yesterday there was not a one of us with clothing on. I mentioned to John that we were weirdos. What other family of four is scattered throughout the house on a Tuesday afternoon in such a state? John assured me there were others. "In a world of 7.5 billion people, we cannot be the only couple sitting in the bath, discussing curtains for our van, with sick naked children wrapped up in covers and cracker crumbs, elsewhere in the house."  

We arrived at the doctor's office in a magnificent coughing fit, to which no crook of the arm was going to contain all the vile air and bits of phlegm determined to escape. The nurse promptly contained all our cooties in room number 3, aka, the palo duro Canyon room. Helen, looked at the mural on the wall. "Mom, do you think that is the Grand Canyon?" "Well," I said, "this clinic is called Lone Star. They have a whole Texas theme going. I bet it is palo duro Canyon." The nurse confirmed this and proceeded to take vital signs between coughs and Helen trying to tell us about the 7 rock layers we were looking at. "Helen," said the nurse, "any diarrhea, vomiting, nausea or lack of appetite?" "No," said Helen, "just non-stop coughing but more importantly, do you see this layer right here?" she points to a strip of color on the mural. "this is Hermit Shale, it is around 265 million years old and contains fossils of reptiles and amphibians along with ferns and other plant life." Apparently the damn Dickens virus was preventing Helen from participating in a group video about the geological history of the Grand Canyon and contributing her layer to the project

Next Lauren is quizzed on her bodily functions. She shakes her head no. "Lauren I say, are you sure no diarrhea?" The night before I had enjoyed another opportunity to perfect my skills with the new super plunger. This time, it was Lauren's toilet that had gone bad. The usual gross suspects were involved in the purge but there was one odd addition, sprinkles, the type you put on cupcakes, and not just a few. There seemed to be millions of them. I tried to find out details. I yelled. I complained. In the end, Lauren walked into the bathroom, patted me on the back mid-plunge and said, "I love you Mom. Thank you for dealing with this." Then she turned around and went back to bed. I knew I could make her stand on hot coals and get no more information. That was her final word on the subject.

So, it was confirmed for the nurse, the Dickens virus had yet to effect appetite or bowels. It did produce low grade fevers and the never ending cough. Accompanied by lots of mucus. Some of which Helen pointed out in Lauren's hair. She then tried to pick it out for Lauren while telling her how gross she was to have snot in her hair. I mentioned that Helen has a lot more hair than Lauren and an extra day of being sick so the probability of her having snot in her hair was even greater. At that point she bails on Lauren and starts inspecting her own 3ft of tangles. The nurse, who I do not believe is particularly fond of our family (She always plants an unnatural smile on her face when we show up), happily excuses herself from the snot expedition.

I sit in the room for a few minutes alone with the girls who are now coughing uncontrollably again from the exertion of combing through their hair. I have this funny visual in my head as the doctor walks in of being in a racket ball room with germ balls being hurled in every direction, bouncing off the walls and hitting me......and now, the doctor. I apologize for the exploding germ balls. "Don't worry," she says, "we are never really affected by them." Our pediatrician is about my age accept that she is gorgeous without being high maintenance and she has one of those gravely cool voices like Demi Moore. If John had any idea what he was missing, he would suddenly want to help out by taking the kids to all their appointments. After looking at their charts and trying to talk to them through the coughing spell, she says "Good God, have they been like this all day?" "Yep." She listens to their lungs for a long time making sure no creaking or wheezing escapes her. All the vitals get a clean bill but the Dickens effect is starting to take its toll. "I think this is a really nasty virus. I will prescribe inhalers because obviously something is really irritating their bronchial tubes but keep doing what you are doing because it isn't going into their lungs. If it gets worse, I mean, the cough couldn't get much worse, it is non-stop, but if it continues like this, we will put them on steroids."  

It is at that moment the doctor coughs. The room goes sepia. She is looking around, I know she sees them now, flying from the mouths of my sweet children. "I.....," she says, "that had to be psychosomatic." She coughs again. I cough. The kids have never stopped coughing. She seems suddenly anxious to leave us. "I will get that prescription going for the inhalers. Don't want you to have to wait. Go ahead and take that box of tissue you have been getting tissues from. Girls, feel better." And she is gone. We sit a little confused. Our doctor is known for hanging out, asking about school, she has the most personable bed side manner ever, but not today. I could feel the office holding its breath as we walked down the hall. I am almost certain I caught a whiff of Lysol as the door shut behind us. On the upside, the get out of school free note covered 3 days and I was told, "If it looks like you need the rest of the week, no need to come by, just give us a call and we will fax another note to the school."  

You know you are extra Petri when not even the Doctor's office wants your cooties.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The case of the Pretend Poison Ivy

Yesterday we are standing out on Mom and Dad's patio and Dad says "I think we are sending Helen home with poison ivy".  I think to myself, great, that sounds like fun.  It is going to spread to every inch of her body by tomorrow morning.  There will be no STARR test for her this week if she is in a constant state of itch.  School is going to love me.  As if reading my mind she says, "I don't think it is poison ivy, it doesn't itch."  Dad looks dubious.  "Well, maybe it is just an allergic reaction to something you kneeled on in the flower bed.  Look at her knee, I think it looks like poison ivy."  I look, it is pink but I don't touch it since it could be icky.  Anyway, it doesn't seem to be bumpy or irritated or spreading.  Helen looks nervous but I just think eh, it will go away.

Great mom I am, I forget completely about the knee.  In fact, Helen is not complaining at all so I figure it is fine.  So, getting in the car, my mom takes notice of the knee and begins quizzing Helen.  "Helen, did you hurt your knee?  It is all pink.  Jeanette did you see it?"  "Yeah Mom,"I say, "Dad thought it was poison ivy but I think it is fine."  Helen, she like the tar baby, she says nothin.  In fact she has said nothin anytime her knee is mentioned at all.  This is not lost on Grandma who is the master inquisitor.  "Helen, let me see your knee."  At this point, Helen attempts in the most casual way possible to say, "Really, it is nothing, I think it is just a little paint."

Grandma, who is also the master of raising one eyebrow while smiling a slight smile that undermines the trouble you are about to be in says, "Paint?  What paint?  The paint in the downstairs bedroom you are not supposed to get into?"  Helen who is a terrible liar says, "I was just looking at it Grandma and somehow it got all over me."  Helen has not learned yet that you do not get away with anything when it comes to Grandma.  Believe me, I know.  "All over you?" My Mom smiles, "and what else got pink paint on it?"  Helen now has a full on squirm.  I have a full on squirm.  We both know pink paint in Helen's hand has the potential to spread just like poison ivy.  "Grandma, there are just a few specks on the carpet."  Grandma, "A few?"  Helen, "Four, exactly four, I counted and they are minuscule," staggers out Helen.  I suddenly realized the depth of the pink paint cover up.  So does Mom.  As a testimony to the power of Grandmotherly love, Mom just says, "oh Helen," with laughter and exasperation.  We hug, we kiss, we start to leave when Grandma smiles and nonchalantly says, "oh Helen you did remember to grab that bugle your sister found in the closet didn't you?"  I pull out of the driveway as quickly as possible to much complaining.  "No time, no time!  We have to go."  and thus I made my escape, dodging both real poison ivy, and mom's bugle revengay.

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Tale of Two Toilets

Earlier this week I had a GS Chinese New Year Celebration at my house.  It was wonderful.  The girls never fail to make my day, particularly at fun meetings like this one.  In fact, I was having such a good time, I failed to pay much attention when one of the Moms let me know disaster had struck.  The disaster this particular evening involved one of the tiniest, cutest little scouts ever and the half bath toilet.  I am always at odds with the half bath toilet.  This guy gets the brunt of use in our house.  The kids get off the bus and make a bee line to this pot.  In the morning, if there is any last minute gut evacuation, it happens in the half bath toilet.  And for Girl Scout meetings, 13 little ladies and their Mamas all frequent this tiny room with no view.  This particular toilet is known for civil disobedience.  More than 7 squares of toilet paper and you are looking at two flushes.  Really, anything other than pee and 6 squares and you are in trouble.  So, I figured, I was simply going to have to flush, wait a few hours, flush, wait a few hours, flush, wait a few hours, and things would go down the pipes and journey away from my half bath.

I should have realized when I walked in the bathroom that this was not an ordinary situation.  First of all, the sheer volume of what tiny cute scout produced was, well, my God it was Guinness book of world record worthy.  My Prima Donna toilet was completely ill equipped to deal with what had gone down.....or not gone down a few hours earlier.  I reached for the plunger.  Our plunger is all style and no substance.  Basically it did about as much good as a soup spoon.  I flushed the toilet.  The bowl filled up to a precarious level but stopped, Hallelujah.  So, I did what anyone would do at 9pm on a Tuesday night when the plunger fails and the fortune cookie reads "Good luck is the result of good planning." I closed the door, had a beer and decided to deal with it when I had better tools and a plan.

Fast forward to the next day.  Dad is staying with me this week while John is on the road.  He is getting a first hand look at the strange phenomenon of how we make it to school on time each morning even when every logical sign points to tardy.  For one thing the light of doom has been on our side.  "What is that field over there, is that alfalfa?" Dad asks.  "I don't know, it looks like it.  Sure is green."  We comment on this every morning, never solving the mystery.  "You know I used to throw hay bales," Dad says.  "I did know that," I say.  "Do you know what I got paid?"  "25 cents a bale?" I guess.  ".02 cents a bale.  I could throw around a thousand bales.  I would get $20 and I thought that was a crazy amount of money.  You know what Robert and I would do after throwing hay?"  "What Dad?"  Dad says, "We would go roller skating."  Good God I think.  No wonder Dad doesn't want to pay anyone to mow his grass.  He is a maniac.  On the other hand, he does not like clogged toilets which is why we have talked about everything but that.  Our next stop after school is for industrial provisions.

I decide I need to take Dad to Elliot's.  It is not Harbor Freight (aka cheap) but it is a cool old style hardware store that has a larger toilet plunger selection than I have ever seen.  It is also filled as Dad puts it, "with old geezers."  We settle on a snake and an accordian looking thing that claims it will unstop toilets, sinks and whatnot.  At the checkout Dad brings up the old geezers so the check out lady rounds up a spry employee.  "I am not an old geezer," he says.  Dad says, "Well I am."  "How old are you?" asks the employee.  Dad says, "I am 73."  "Bah," says the non-old Geezer, "You are a young thing.  I am 86."  They get to talking.  They cover a lot of territory.  Eventually landing on where Dad lives.  "Oh yeah, Tyler area is real pretty," non-geezer says to Dad.  "Yeah," says Dad "but it is full of assholes."  I cringe but non-geezer doesn't miss a beat.  "Son, I got news for ya, there are assholes everywhere."  That about says it all, if there is any more wisdom to come out of a trip to the hardware store, I can't imagine it.  He did tell Dad to behave himself.  More sound advice.

We head home.  We talk.  It is pleasant avoidance of the big job waiting for me.  There are lots of things I will have Dad do around my house.  This is not one of them.  Dad stands in the living room giving me a tutorial on the accordion plunger.  I unscrew this top part, get it into position, re-screw, then push.  I walk into the bathroom.  Most of the time the phrase OH. MY. GOD. is overused.  Not this time.  Overnight my toilet has turned into that toilet from Trainspotting.  Yes, you know the one.  I stand there, completely astounded that I am in my beautiful home and not looking into the worst most foul toilet in all of Scotland.  Dad walks in and turns green.  "I will get you some water for the bowl," he says.  I just stand there, the Han Solo of toilets with a bad feeling.  I pour the water in.  I position the bendy plunger.  I tighten the top part, I push, nothing happens.  I didn't push hard enough.  I do it again.  This time I push hard enough but it was not positioned quite right which causes a tsunami that goes on the floor, on me, on my shoes, on my pants.  Dad looks at me mortified.  "This is the worst moment of my life!" I say.  Dad says, "Yeah, thus far."  I try to envision what could be worse than being covered in day old shit, and how to get uncovered from day old shit without spreading it everywhere.  I manage.  I suddenly feel quite motivated to teach the GS troop how to properly wield a plunger.  I scoff at the silly idea I would ever use the accordion plunger on anything other than a toilet.  It will never go near a sink.  The design is great and does the job BUT, cleaning day old shit out from between the accordion folds is not for the faint of heart.

In fact, even though that bathroom is, as my Dad says, cleaner than it has been in years, I find myself walking an extra minute and a half to my bathroom.  It will be a bit of time until the scars recede from the tsunami.  It is with absolute confidence that I sit down to do my business when I detect something sticky and foul transferring itself from the seat onto that bit of leg directly below my left butt check.  With great trepidation I reach my hand under, explore the frightening substance.  It is worse than I could ever imagine.  It is yak.  Someone has yaked on the toilet seat and failed to clean it or let me know it even happened.  Must. get. in. shower.  Must. decontaminate.

I emerge from the shower furious.  I stomp out in my towel.  "WHO.....WHO YAKED ON THE TOILET SEAT AND DID NOT REPORT THE BIO-HAZZARD!!!!!  I SAT IN IT!!!!

Timidly my oldest raises her hand.  "Sorry Mom, I was hopping around after eating, it came up, I spit it out, it was dark in the bathroom but I aimed for inside the toilet."  "NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!!!! IF I EVER SIT IN YAK AGAIN, I AM MOVING YOU INTO THE BACKYARD.  KAPEESH?!!!"

"Kapeesh, Mom."

After being attacked by two toilets in one day, I decide it was definitely a night to be ended with several shots of tequila, but, at the risk of pissing off another porcelain God, I just go with a Shiner Bock and walk all the way to John's office toilet that night.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Pointers and Ploppers

A cool thing happened today. I saw one of Rugged man's fabulous Hunting dogs running by the creek in the back like he usually does when Rugged Man yells "Whoooooa". Moxie heard his voice and came tearing around the corner full speed, slid into the door almost toppling over to get outside and bark at his dog. I let her out, I am never one to stand between Moxie and a little physical activity. Anyway, she goes to the fence and starts barking like mad. Handsome hunter dog is maybe three feet away from her but he doesn't even look her direction. In fact, he is standing there totally needing to be videoed because he is doing the best mannequin challenge I have ever seen. He is not moving a muscle. He could be a statue. Not a twitch or anything. Moxie is still barking like mad. Probably infuriated to be 100% ignored. I stand there, just uber impressed. Oh, I think, I should get my phone and take a picture and post this on FB. Oh crap, I am charging my phone. It is all the way in the back room. No way Rugged Man's dog will be here when I get back. Moxie, she is still barking. Hunter dog, he is still a statue. Oh, I think, I could grab my camera it is in here. I go get the camera, fumble around with it. Open the door, stand on the patio, accidentally turn the camera on and off. Moxie has stopped barking and is cocking her head. Hunter dog, he just stands there. Still as a statue. I take two or three pictures. Finally, he must have gotten some high pitched whistle because he takes off in the most graceful statue to greyhound looking dog move I have ever seen. I looked up what kind of dog he was and from the picture, I realized Rugged man has Pointers. Ahhhh, the light goes off. He was pointing. I never knew that is what they do but it is totally cool. I stood there thinking how the man and dog relationships mirror each other. Rugged man is so disciplined, he runs with his dogs every day. Rain or shine. Moxie and I walk back in, I plop on the couch with a cup of coffee and the National Geographic, Moxie plops back in her bed with a chew toy. We are perfectly matched. Two slightly grey, full-figured girls who after barking at someone who needs to be barked at, enjoy some down time.

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.