Say Yes to the Dress…and Yes and Yes and Yes

My three-year-old daughter is currently in love with Rapunzel.

She has a Rapunzel dress that she wears every day.  Seriously—every day.  Bonus: it’s full of glitter, so yay!  Our house is always sparkly!  The dress too fragile to be washed, and I thought it would bother me that she wears the same unwashed outfit every day—but it really cuts down on the laundry.  Plus, gone are my morning stress attacks about her taking forever to choose an outfit before it’s time to rush Colin off to school.  She gets up, we throw on the dress, and she’s ready to begin pollinating the couch and floors with glitter.  Perfect.

Andy, trying to encourage a different outfit selection, recently said, “You can’t wear the same thing every day!  Does Rapunzel wear the same dress every day?”  It was quiet then.  Because, in the movie, Rapunzel does appear to the wear the same dress every day.  So that argument ended with a win for Annabelle.

There has been great debate in our house over what Rapunzel wears to bed, as this information isn’t divulged in the movie.  I contend she puts on her comfortable Paw Patrol pajamas, but Annabelle thinks she continues to wear her dress.  I say that’s ridiculous, but given that Rapunzel wears the same outfit every day, the evidence appears to stack up on Annabelle’s side.

Annabelle doesn’t like it when ignorant people, seeing her in a princess outfit, call her a princess.  She does not want to be a princess…but Rapunzel is a princess.  Annabelle struggles with this.  I wish I could protect her, but life is about accepting these hard truths.

Annabelle loved the Rapunzel books, so even though the ending of the movie is scary, we decided to let her watch Disney’s Tangled.  In the last scene, the villain stabs Flynn, the male lead, and drags a sobbing Rapunzel away in chains.  Flynn, bleeding and dying, manages to save Rapunzel by chopping off her magical, blond hair, causing it to turn brown and un-magical—and I love it that the self-esteem damaging symbolism is obvious enough for a three-year-old to grasp.  Then the villain shrieks as she painfully shrivels and vanishes.  Next up are several minutes of Flynn gasping for breath as he slips closer to death.

When the ending played, Annabelle started whimpering and crying, and we felt terrible for showing it.

“Don’t worry!  The villain’s gone now,” we told her.  “And Flynn’s okay!  Look!  Rapunzel saves him.”

Annabelle only sobbed harder.  “I don’t want her hair to be brown!” she cried.

Seriously.  That’s the part she thought was scary.

Annabelle has requested we call her Rapunzel and recently asked me why I did not name her that.  (Answer: because I am sane.)  We do all try to call her Rapunzel, though we have stopped short of filing the legal paperwork.

Because Rapunzel never wears shoes, Annabelle also wants to be barefoot at all times, but she did acquiesce to wearing shoes when she leaves the house.  This is because I explained that Rapunzel’s feet are hardened and calloused from running around in the forest without proper footwear, as was probably depicted in a deleted scene.

To complete her Rapunzel transformation, Annabelle wants to continue growing her hair (not a problem) and to dye it yellow (problem).  I’m taking this way too seriously, but it seems like young girls constantly struggle with wanting to change something about their appearance, and my baby already wants different hair at age three?  I hate that.  And I kind of hate Rapunzel for causing it.  And I don’t know how to break it to Annabelle that yellow isn’t a real hair color.

“But your hair is so beautiful!” I tell her, and she ignores me.

“You should be happy with what you have!” I say, and she ignores me.

“No one wants hair that’s so long that people use it to climb up and down towers.  Don’t you think that would hurt?” I ask, and she listens.

“Yeah!” she says.  “And wouldn’t her hair get dirty dragging on the floor all the time?”

“So dirty!”

Like your dress.  And your bare feet.  And the house, on account of all the glitter.  But yes!  Dirt!  Gross!


Posted in Family, Marriage, Motherhood, Parenthood, Princess, Rapunzel, Tangled, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rats! and Other Four Letter Words

Two years ago, my family and I visited my parents in Reno for Christmas, and when we returned, our kitchen was flooded.  Apparently rats had snuck into the house in our absence and chewed through the water line to the fridge– the water line I’d been wanting installed for seven years and that was finally put in maybe a month prior.

Later, I ran the dishwasher, and that also flooded the kitchen because the rats had eaten through that tubing as well.

Some rats sew dresses, clean houses, and cook gourmet meals.  Ours destroyed our home.

The thing is that we thought we were being so clever when we left.  We cleaned relentlessly and packaged away all the food.  “Ha!” we thought.  “We didn’t leave those rats anything!  They’ll be desperate for water!”  Turns out we were right.

One of my seven-year-old students, after hearing the story, commented, “You should really put in metal water lines instead of plastic.”

Isn’t he smart.  Except that I know way more important things like how to divide decimals and write a cursive “z.”  Sometimes I wonder how that boy’s going to make it in the real world.

A restoration company came in and put industrial fans all over the house.  This in between time when we didn’t yet know what was going to happen was the worst.  Power cords ran all over the floor, there was a constant whirring background noise, and all of us turned into reptiles with dry, flaky skin.  The restoration company told us that they had to cut into the floors and walls to properly dry everything out because there might be mold growing under the house.  They told us we would have to move out for six months.

We often asked if there was evidence of mold, but they could never verify this.  They just told us to get out.

They were probably right.  But I couldn’t help wondering, how bad is it to live in mold, really?  (They said it was bad.  Really.)

I think a lot of my doubts could have been solved if they’d just lied to me and said, “Yes!  There’s mold!  Everywhere!  You will probably die from it in six months unless you move out.”

Then I could have felt really good about moving out and not dying.

Things got better.  Our insurance company came through and paid for the bulk of the expenses, including six months in a rental in Vallejo.  Our Vallejo house was much bigger.  It had an extra bathroom and bedroom, including a master suite.  In the evenings, two people could be in separate bathrooms and shower at—get this—the same time.  Then, when Andy and I wanted to watch a movie while the kids napped, the house was large enough that the kids couldn’t hear us.  We’d always wondered if we’d like a bigger house, and it turns out we would.  For a while, we were sure we should move.

But then we moved back to our updated, rat free home, and we changed our minds.  We got to choose everything for the remodel, so we love it.  If we bought a bigger house, there’s no way it would be remodeled in just the way we want.  Then we’d have to release a rat to chew through the water line and damage it again.  Seems like a lot of trouble.

Posted in Family, Motherhood, Parenthood | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Obsessions of a Three-Year-Old

My three-year-old daughter is obsessed with Paw Patrol.  It’s a Canadian show about a boy named Ryder who directs about ten pups.  Whenever there is a problem in town, the citizens call Ryder and his dogs to save them.  They do this in lieu of funding a fire or police department.

Paw Patrol was invented by a toy company, which is pure genius.  Who needs commercials?  The show itself is one long commercial.

Accordingly, Annabelle is not that into the show, but she loves the stuffed dogs, so much so that she can’t imagine anyone not liking them.  The construction dog is named Rubble, but her grandma once called him Bubble.  (In Grandma’s defense, Rubble is a bit big boned.)  “Grandma called him Bubble!” Annabelle said, then threw back her head and laughed for five minutes at Grandma’s ignorance.

We got Annabelle Paw Patrol socks for her birthday, but the laundry cycle works out so that she has two days when she has to (gasp!) pick a different pair of socks.  Annabelle’s answer to this is to go sockless for two days in protest.  “Why don’t we just get her more Paw Patrol socks?” Andy asked.  Of course that makes sense.  But seriously?!  There are so many socks in that drawer that you have to arrange them just so to get it to close.  Some of them are the My Little Pony socks that I bought her that she was in love a few months ago, but now all of a sudden her feet are too good for them.  When I suggested she wear them, she had about the same reaction as when Grandma called her dog Bubble.

In addition to liking the dogs, Annabelle likes Ryder—the boy!  She likes the way he combs his hair straight up and has noted that she wishes there was a page of her book with a picture of Ryder styling his hair.  I think his hair looks stupid—I mean, he combs it straight up.  I guess this is where our disagreements on boys begin.

Annabelle is not the only Paw Patrol fan.  When trying to buy paper plates for her birthday party, we visited three Party Cities and still could not come up with enough plates.  Apparently there’s a run on Paw Patrol plates.  They probably go for hundreds on the black market.

One of my criticisms of Paw Patrol is that there are only two girl dogs out of about ten.  Even Ryder’s a boy.  I’ve read a lot about how it’s good for girls’ self-esteem to see strong female characters in shows and books.  I tried to get Annabelle into Skye, one of the female dogs, but no luck.

OK, confession time: I have another reason for selling Skye.  When I was wrapping Annabelle’s birthday presents, I saw we’d gone a little nuts, so I put some away to save them for Christmas, and stuffed Skye was among them.  Now I’m trying to brainwash Annabelle into wanting Skye for Christmas.  I’m very subtle.  “Don’t you like Skye?” I ask.  “She’s so cute!  Probably you want Santa to bring you Skye for Christmas.”  But Annabelle won’t budge.

If I could get Colin on board with the brainwashing, success would be mine.  But if I tell Colin, he’ll question the whole Santa Claus story.  It seems a shame to destroy the magic of Christmas for a six-year-old boy.  I could never put a price tag on his belief and innocence.  Except that if I can’t get Annabelle on board with Skye I’m going to be out like eight bucks.

“I want Ryder for Christmas,” Annabelle says.

“I don’t know if they make him,” I say.

“I hope they make him with his hair combed straight up.  He’s cute.”



Posted in Family, Family, Motherhood, Parenthood, Paw Patrol | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

One More Never Hurt Anybody

I think I want a third child.   Sometimes I think this means I’m crazy.  Andy confirms this.

I especially doubt my sanity every evening at bedtime.  Around eight p.m., I’m not even sure I want the children we have.  Science claims there’s no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, but I have two of them.  How is it possible that when everyone’s energy level should be at its lowest, my children are able to reenact a stampede from the nature channel, matching the noise and destruction level with stunning similarity?  They’re such gifted little overachievers.

 One night, when the house was a disaster from said stampede, and bedtime felt so far away, I thought of a woman I knew who’d just given birth to her fourth.  “Imagine having to breastfeed a newborn and get an extra one to bed,” I said to Andy.  “When do those parents sleep?”

“They don’t,” Andy said.

Then our children did another rowdy run by, and Andy did his silent-eyebrow-raise-look which made him think he’d won this round.

I was on the receiving end of that same look last week when we were at the amusement park.  Our children were running back and forth at an outside eatery, weaving among the families with the obedient robot children who were sitting quietly.

“Should we tell our kids to stop?” Andy asked.

But I was tired, so I shook my head.  “It gives the other parents a chance to feel superior.”

I like to practice random acts of kindness like that.  Just think how many more opportunities I’d have for that kind of thing if I had a third.

But there are those times when the kids are cuddling with me, one under each arm or one on each leg.  Or when Annabelle is walking around the house with her Lambie saying, “I love you!” and hugging each member of our family.  Or when Colin disappears into his room to make and wrap a present for his sister, just because.  And I think, “Oh, just one more.”

Right after I drop Colin at school and it’s just me and Annabelle, I’m sure I want another.  In fact, during 8-3, if they’re all in school, I could probably handle ten.  As long as someone else puts them to bed.

Andy wants a van.  But if there are only four of us, we don’t need a van.  Now if there were five of us…

“Never mind,” Andy says.  “I don’t need a van.”

I am afraid of the extra work a third will inevitably bring.  But my mom says the third is so easy.  “The switch to two is hard, but three is no problem.”

I want to believe her, but I was her third, so of course it was easy.

I am also nervous about how sick pregnancy makes me.  Do I want to do that again?  I know a mother of six.  “After four or five, you stop getting the morning sickness,” she says.

I don’t think I’m going to run that experiment.

“We’re not chill people,” Andy says.  “Think about your friends who have three.  They’re all more laid back than us.”

“I’m chill!” I say.  “You don’t think I’m chill?!  Why don’t you think I’m chill?!”

Andy doesn’t answer, I think because I’ve so soundly won this point.

When I asked Annabelle if we should have another, she said, “Yes.  You’ll take care of it.”  She’s good at distributing responsibility.

Colin was more on the fence.  “I already got used to Annabelle.  I’m not sure if I can do another.”

When pushed, he agreed to a third if it can be an older brother.  This upset Annabelle, who wants an older sister.

That sounds impossible, but so are the stomping and wild animal sounds that rip through my house at eight every night, so who’s to say what’s possible?

Posted in Family, Marriage, Motherhood, Parenthood | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Early Onset Senioritis

My kindergarten son offers a lot of resistance to school in the morning. He doesn’t exactly hate school; he just feels it gets in the way of other creative projects he’d like to work on at home. He has Legos to build and train tracks to construct, and Lightning McQueen and his friends have had noticeably less adventures since August rolled around. I see his point. School is a time suck.

People tell me to talk to him about what he wants to do when he grows up so that he will see school as preparation for work (also a time suck). Since age one, I have asked Colin this question, and his answer has always been that he doesn’t want to get a job; he just wants to play. He is smarter than I am. It took me all the way until I got a job to realize the whole growing up thing was a total mistake.

On the mornings Colin gets upset before school, I waffle between thinking I should be more compassionate and feeling like, “Come on already.  We’re going to be late.”  The thing about compassion is that it takes extra minutes in the morning that we just don’t have.  So I am settled into a routine of hugging him but then being a bit heartless and shoving him into the car and then questioning it and feeling guilty about it after I drop him off.  It works really well for us.

His two-year-old sister helps with this routine. In the midst of Colin’s agonies over not wanting to go, she interjects, “Colin, you have to go to school.” That goes over really well. Then she follows it up with, “I’m never going to school. I’m going to stay home with Mommy forever.” Words of comfort, like splashing hot water on a burn.

It’s not all Annabelle’s fault. She’s been warned off. She used to want to go to school, but Colin explained the horror that is institutionalized education: No Lambie, no Mommy, endless hours of drudgery. She changed her tune pretty quickly.

Part of Colin’s argument against school is that he feels he’s mastered the kindergarten curriculum, so he might as well drop out, focus on his Legos, and take a passing glance at first grade in August. Last week, I was helping out in his classroom while his teacher was going over the letter sounds, and Colin got upset and left the learning circle. When I tried to find out what was wrong, he said, “We’ve done those letter cards. And she was just going to keep doing every card.”

“Oh,” I say. “Well, yeah. That’s how school is.”

Then five minutes later, when the activity changed and the letter cards were put away, Colin was smiling and happy again. So I congratulated myself on some pretty stellar parenting there.

Andy tells me that he used to complain about going to school in the mornings. I think he means that it’s normal for kids to resist school, but what I hear him saying is that this whole problem is genetically his fault.

My dad did tell me that he remembers being in grade school and shouting, “I’ve had it! We go over the same stuff every day!” and then storming out. This story is startling similar to Colin’s little episode and does sort of seem to suggest I’m genetically culpable. So I didn’t tell Andy about it.

Colin doesn’t want to do his homework either. Again, he doesn’t hate it. He’d just rather do other things. Annabelle, meanwhile, says, “Homework? I want to do homework!” This is probably because homework for her consists of cutting the paper into as many pieces as possible and then scattering them all over the floor and table. Sometimes she randomly glues some of them together, just to mix it up. At any point, she can announce, “I’m done!” and actually be done. Then I tell her to clean her mess, and if she picks up five pieces of paper, she thinks she’s done a really good job. It’s hard not to see Colin’s point that growing up is full of disadvantages.

Part of the problem is me. I don’t want Colin to go to school either. I miss those days of him sleeping as late as he needed and then getting up to snuggle in bed with me. I miss going on adventures together during the day. He drove me nuts some days, but I still liked having him with me. Now he’s at school every morning, and school wears him out so much he needs a nap, and there’s no time left for Legos or Lightning McQueen or snuggling or fun. I miss him.

But I have this vague sense that I’m supposed to act like more of an adult about it all. At least, that’s what I see all the other parents at drop off doing.

The day Colin had his breakdown about the letter cards, when I drove away, I saw him at recess, sitting and eating lunch with a friend. It was the sweetest picture—my baby! making a friend by himself—but also sad—my baby, making a friend by himself, learning to do all the things he has to learn to do without me.

Then Annabelle said from the backseat, “Do you think we should find me a baby school?”, and I said, “Hush. There’s no such thing.” Then she remembered Colin’s horror stories of school and was pacified, and I could rest easy knowing that her transition to school will be smooth as a tsunami.

Posted in Family, Family, Marriage, Motherhood, Parenthood, School | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Adventures of Lambie

Lambie full body

My two-year-old’s favorite toy is a stuffed, green lamb. Wherever Annabelle goes, Lambie goes too.

Even after he’s been washed, Lambie always has a gray tint to him. He spends a lot of his time face down on the ground. He’s probably responsible for half the infections that swirl through our house. It’s a scary thing when Annabelle insists we kiss E. coli Lambie.

I washed Lambie last week (though no one would be able to tell), but the very day he emerged from the washing machine, he acquired a red stain on his face. This is because he insisted on taking a ketchup laden bite. I told him not to, but Lambie can really dig his hooves in when he wants something.

When Annabelle was younger, Lambie bath days were traumatic. I counted it a triumph when I successfully snuck him into the machine. I was so naïve. When Annabelle discovered the theft, she knelt at the machine, screaming and wailing as she watched her lovie tumble in suds. You’d expect a happy reunion when Lambie finally emerged, but no.   He was wet and deemed uncuddlable. Annabelle threw him down, cried, tried to cuddle him, threw him down, and screamed some more. It was easier to skip the wash and let the bacteria fester.

Lambie assumes a prominent position in the household. He attends all meals (as evidenced by the condiments on his face). Whenever there is a lull in dinnertime conversation—ha! That’s a joke. There’s never a lull in conversation when her five-year-old brother is present—but when Annabelle is able to shove a comment into the melee that is dinner, she often says, “I want you to talk about Lambie.”

We try. We really do. But after the fiftieth time this request is made, the conversational well runs dry.

Lambie is a useful motivator, though. When Annabelle refuses to eat her vegetables, Lambie promises to clap after each bite. It’s amazing how much easier the broccoli goes down when applauding livestock are present.

Whenever we leave the house, Annabelle says, “Lambie will come too.” And he does. But Annabelle is a fair weather friend. When she sees something more interesting, Lambie, that love of her life, is tossed on the ground. How many times have we been on the freeway, minutes from home, when Annabelle’s small cry of “Where’s Lambie?” fills the car.

Once we searched the library for him until Annabelle finally remembered she’d buried him in the box with the other stuffed animals. I would never have found him there. Another time Lambie spent the night at the Granite Store. Andy assured me Annabelle was too young to care or miss him. But the next morning when I said we were going to the Granite Store, Annabelle ran to the window, pressed her little hands to the glass, and cried out, “Lambie!” She stationed herself there until we left to retrieve her marooned friend.

More recently, Lambie stayed three days and nights at a friend’s house. I searched the house several times for him before we left and enlisted Annabelle’s help, but Annabelle was too busy playing to be concerned. After we left, Lambie was discovered hiding in the closet. Apparently, he’d been playing hide and seek, waiting for Annabelle and he friend to find him. Hopefully Lambie won’t fall for that trick again. When Lambie and Annabelle were finally reunited, Lambie complained bitterly about being left to sleep alone during the nights of his separation. Maybe this experience will teach Lambie not to run and hide right before it’s time to leave.

Lambie likes to wear dresses and put bows in his ears, but Annabelle refers to him as a “he.” This frustrates Colin, who sees this as Not Right. When asked his gender, Lambie sometimes says he’s a boy, sometimes a girl, and sometimes just Lambie. Perturbed, Colin attacked the question from a different angle: Is Lambie a Mr. or a Mrs.? This resulted in an angry tirade from Annabelle, with both the answer and source of the anger remaining unclear. Slowly, Colin has come to accept these ambiguous answers, so Lambie has done his part for teaching acceptance of gender differences. It almost makes up for him being a travelling petri dish. Almost.

Lambie isn’t always an angel. Once the kids were yelling in the house, and when Andy told them to be quiet, Annabelle explained, “That was Lambie.” Colin corroborated this story. Lambie was promptly sent to time out, but that’s by no means cured him.

Annabelle has hugged Lambie with such vehemence that he no longer has any stuffing in his neck. Sometimes when I say, “I love you, Annabelle,” she responds, “I love Lambie!” And I think she does. Lambie fulfills a need that somehow the rest of us can’t. She loves him with a fierce love that cannot be destroyed. Unless he’s hiding and there are other toys to play with. Or if we’re in the Granite Store and she notices a particularly stunning cut.

Annabelle cropped

Posted in Family, Marriage, Motherhood, Parenthood | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Gingerbread Thug House

At the grocery store, my son Colin picks up a gingerbread house kit. “I thought this might be a fun project for us to do together,” he says, all sweetness.

I’m not crafty. Or artistic. Or even particularly good in the kitchen. So this gingerbread house kit does not play into my skill set. But Colin is looking so cute pretending that he wants family time when what he really wants is to consume the massive dessert pictured on the box, so I cave.

Colin, Annabelle, and I swing the cart into the candy aisle to buy sweets to decorate the house. This is the real reason I said yes. Andy always wants us to buy candies without artificial colors, and I try, but it’s hard. Because I heart Red Dye No. 40. Sorry, Whole Foods, but your all natural beet juice colored candies are not the same. Yellow Dye No. 5 is my other bestie.

It turns out the gingerbread house is a three step project. First we have to make the dough, but Colin is allergic to egg and dairy, so we have to modify the dough so that it’s vegan. Annabelle and Colin also have to fight WWIII over whose turn it is to dump the flour into the mixing bowl. And then again with the sugar. And again with the vanilla.

The recipe says to refrigerate the dough for two hours. I refrigerate it for two weeks. Life is busy.

Andy mentions that the dough has white stuff on it, so I decide it’s time to resume the project. The dough still smells okay, and the white stuff looks like flour—and who really eats the gingerbread houses besides Hansel and Gretel?—and look what happened to them.

The dough is hard as a rock. The recipe really should have been more specific—like refrigerate for at least two hours, but not more than two weeks. I nuke it and add water and flour, and it resembles normal dough again. We don’t have a rolling pin because, really, we aren’t rolling pin type of people, so I use the margarita mixing cup to roll out the dough.

On my first try, I am able to cut out three walls. We need four, with two roof slabs, a chimney, and people. The box says there is enough dough for one and a half houses. I am beginning to seriously question these directions.

Annabelle, my two-year-old, helps. Colin, that champion of family time, plays by himself. Annabelle drools when she concentrates, and her spittle drops onto the dough. I roll it in with the margarita cup because Colin and Andy aren’t watching.

I make icing—also vegan—and bake the house. Now it is time to put it together.

Andy takes over, clearing his throat with importance because he teaches Architectural Design at the high school. The vegan icing doesn’t hold so well. That may be because the sides of the house aren’t flat. (Because there was not enough dough for a small cabin, let alone the split level custom home advertised on the box.) It looks like the gingerbread children will have to find alternative shelter for the night. Colin, Annabelle and I help by eating the carcinogenic candies.

Eventually, we are able to construct a drafty and dilapidated gingerbread abandoned warehouse where the gingerbread thugs meet.

2015-11-08 17.09.58

 Our house

2015-11-08 16.38.13

The house on the box

I’m not sure children were involved in making this second one.

Colin and Annabelle have a lot of fun decorating the house with candy, and family bonding prevails, as Colin predicted. Every two minutes, Annabelle asks, “Can I eat this? I’m going to eat this.” Then we have to rip it out of her sticky little fingers because she has already consumed enough candy to power four large cities.

When we are done, Colin eyes our gingerbread house from the wrong side of town. “Can we eat it now?” he asks. It’s like the ending of a Clint Eastwood movie. Were those white streaks on the dough flour? Or something else? I don’t know, Colin. Do you feel lucky? Do you?

2015-11-08 17.09.14



Posted in Christmas, Family, Holiday, Marriage, Motherhood, Parenthood | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment